were my husband's first pick to cook from the new book, it was the fried chicken that caught my eye. Actually, I'd been thinking about that chicken long before the cookbook was printed. That famous chicken is served bi-weekly in the restaurant. Every other Monday the menu popped up on my home page to taunt me. That recipe had been demonstrated on many television shows and had appeared (always with a slight variation) in magazines and in newspaper food sections. I, however, was waiting for the "real" recipe hot off the press.
Making the chicken was another matter entirely. It takes two days! Seriously. And then, there was that ominous line "do not brine the chicken more than 12 hours or it will be too salty". This was my big concern.
I have never been a passenger on the brine the meat bandwagon. Sure, I've read the articles trumpeting the superiority of brined meat. When I taste it? Eh, mostly I taste overly salty meat. I had become a brine-skipper when a recipe called for it.
If you brine for the 12 hours and want chicken at 6:30 pm that means you have to be up and actually functioning in the kitchen 12 hours earlier which is not a happy thing. Then, if you read further in the recipe you discover to your (ok, to my) horror that you also have to add in frying time and bringing the chicken to room temperature time which would mean dunking that chicken in it's briney bath at 4 am! That my friends is never going to happen around here.
While I was willing to brine the chicken for Thomas Keller, I wasn't willing to get up long before the crack of dawn to do it. I made the decision that the chicken went in when I got up at whatever time that was. And so it happened.
Other than my brining revolt we did follow the recipe as written.
It was delicious. The meat was juicy and herbal tasting and lemony. The crust shattered when you bit in and left crumbles down your shirt. It was nicely seasoned and spicy. We used our fingers to eat and had extra big cloth napkins.
But, was it worth all that fussy effort? That one is tougher to answer. I only go through the mess of making fried chicken about every three years. It just doesn't happen too often around here. Yes, we love fried foods, but it is a mess and a hassle and the specter of hardening arteries is always hovering over head.
I said to my husband that I really liked it, but it wasn't that much different from my regular recipe which is much simpler with an overnight bath in buttermilk rather than the brine. It also doesn't require separate temperatures for frying; just plop it in and cook.
My husbands response? "Clearly then you misunderstood the master."
It hurts to snort fried chicken crust crumbs, let me tell you.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
3 lemons, halved
12 bay leaves
1/2 bunch (2 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch (1/2 ounce) thyme
1/4 C clover honey
1/2 head of garlic cut in half through the equator
2 T black peppercorns
1 C kosher salt, preferable Diamond Crystal
1 gallon water
6 C all purpose flour
1/4 C garlic powder
1/4 C onion powder
1 T plus 1 t paprika
1 T plus 1 t cayenne
1 T plus 1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
peanut or canola oil for deep frying
1 quart buttermilk
2 - 2 1/2 to 3 lb chickens
ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
Making the Brine - Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from heat and cool completely. Chill before using. The brine can be made up to 3 days in advance.
For the Fried Chicken - Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters and 2 wings. Add the chicken to the brine and refrigerate for 12 hours - no longer or the chicken may become too salty.
Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse under cold water removing any herbs or spices sticking to it. Pat dry with paper towels and let come to room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
Use a large pot about 6 inches deep to cook the chicken. Fill the pot with 2 inches of oil and heat to 320 degrees F. Set up a cooling rack over a baking sheet.
While the oil is heating, combine all of the coating ingredients. Divide the coating mix into two containers. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl. Dip each chicken piece into the first bowl of coating mix, then into the buttermilk and finally into the last bowl of coating. Transfer to a parchment lined pan to rest.
Cook the thighs and legs first. After 2 minutes of cooking carefully move the pieces in the oil and continue to fry , turning as necessary for even cooking. Chicken will take about 11 - 12 minutes to cook and should be a deep golden brown.
Transfer the cooked pieces to a cooling rack, skin side up, and sprinkle with fine sea salt.
Turn the heat up to 340 degrees F to cook the breasts and wings. These pieces will take about 6 - 7 minutes to cook through and be golden brown. Cooked chicken should be places on the cooling rack skin side up and sprinkled with salt to finish.
printable version - tcfriedchicken.pdf