Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The Most Awesome Fried Chicken
Seriously, this stuff is devilishly good. Devilish because, yes, it is horribly fattening, but sometimes, you just have to go there. It takes about two days to put together this dish, so you know what? At the end of that, you deserve a delicious, heart-stopping, artery-clogging plate of fried chicken. At least, that’s what I think.
Now, you’re probably wondering how fried chicken could take two days to make. Or maybe you’re not—maybe you can think of many possible explanations for why the process would take this long. Well, be that as it may, I’m still going to walk you through my experience of making this recipe, which, by the way, is from Thomas Keller, featured in this September’s Bon Appétit magazine. So, want to know the first secret to the success of this fabulous fried chicken? Brining. Yep, it’s as simple as that.
First, I brought my brine to a boil, a mixture of lots of water, lots of kosher salt, some honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and lemon juice.
It then had to sit and come to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for two hours. This set me back a total of five hours or so, but it was worth it!
Next, I added my chicken. Instead of using an entire chicken, as the recipe describes, I used five drumsticks, perfect to feed Andrew and me. Then I let the chicken brine for about 15 hours. After that, I coated it. The coating consists of a mixture of flour, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt, and buttermilk in a separate bowl. I started by dipping a piece of chicken in the flour mixture, and then shaking off the excess:
Then, I coated it completely in the buttermilk:
Finally, I dipped it back into the flour mixture, and got it good and thickly coated. No shaking off the excess this time—thick and clumpy is good.
I must warn you, dear readers, that this is a messy job. Behold my batter-covered fingers:
Now here’s another secret to the success of this fried chicken: don’t start frying yet! I let the chicken sit for an hour at room temperature so that the caked-on batter dries.
So, finally, after much time and energy, waiting and working, I was ready to turn my ordinary old chicken into FRIED CHICKEN! This is the fun/scary part of the process. I have only deep-fried a few times in my life, but it’s actually not as tricky as I thought it would be. All you need is a big pot, a deep-frying thermometer, and a big, kind of gross, amount of oil. Peanut oil is best (because of its high smoking point), but vegetable or canola oil work as well. I used half peanut and half canola, and it worked great. The deep-frying contraption is as simple as this:
I heated the oil to 320 F. To keep it between 320 and 330, it was important to keep a close eye on the thermometer—it can go over 330 quickly, so I was raising and lowering the heat throughout the process.
I used tongs to transfer the drumsticks into the oil and to move them around. They took about twelve minutes to cook through, turning once in the middle. I was looking for a nice deep golden brown on the outside. One of mine went a little over, veering more towards burnt, so they need close supervision. But would you look at this?
Is that gorgeous, or what? I served it with peas and homemade cornbread, and it was fantastic. Obviously, this is the kind of meal you have to plan ahead for. I know a lot of people find that a big pain, and I can certainly appreciate the advantages of being spontaneous. Personally, though, I often find that food tastes better when it’s something I’ve planned ahead, thought about, and worked on for a long time. When I tasted my fried chicken, the fruition of a project two days in the works (a long time to make supper!), I had such an appreciation for everything that went into making it. I could taste the elements of the carefully prepared brine, gently flavoring the chicken; I could feel the crunch of the buttermilk batter when I bit into my drumstick because I took the time to let it adhere to the meat properly. It all came together deliciously. So was it worth all the time and energy it took? Yes, absolutely. Andrew agrees: