Monday, August 30, 2010

fried chicken friday

For some reason, I got a serious hankering for fried chicken last week. It's not the kind of thing I make at home very often, probably because it's a lot of effort for just Dan and me. If you're going to go to the trouble to fry chicken, you might as well do a whole bird, and then that's quite a bit of chicken for two people to eat. Dan would probably disagree with this, but still.

The craving persisted so I invited some friends over to make a Friday night of it. Now, which recipe to choose? Choosing a recipe for fried chicken is like choosing a recipe for chocolate cake. Thomas Keller, the chef behind fine dining establishments The French Laundry and Per Se, is well-known for the fried chicken he serves at Ad Hoc, his more casual place. It is so beloved that he now sells fried chicken kits at Williams-Sonoma for $14.95. (Cough! Ripoff! Cough!)
For the more budget-conscious, the actual recipe is on Food & Wine's website, and you can make your own mix out of things you probably already have in your pantry: garlic and onion powder, cayenne, salt, pepper, and regular old flour. The real secret to this chicken is that it is brined overnight in an aromatic bath of lemons, peppercorns, garlic, honey, bay leaves, and fresh rosemary, parsley, and thyme sprigs. Again, most stuff you've probably got on hand. The rest is pretty straightforward: brine, dip in buttermilk, dredge in flour, then fry to crispy gold perfection.
Fry up some herb sprigs and strew them on top of the chicken, which you have decoratively mounded on a platter. Place the platter in the middle of the table and watch everyone's eyes get a little big as they take a seat. Drink some cold beer, put some Springsteen on the stereo. Eat fried chicken. That's pretty much the best way to spend a Friday night in my book. 

Friday night chicken dinner
Lemon-brined fried chicken
Corn with thyme and butter
Peach and blueberry cobbler a la mode

Lemon-brined fried chicken
From Thomas Keller via F&W. For four to six people, you can easily cut this recipe in half.
(Serves 8 to 10 people)

1 gallon cold water
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
Two 3-pound chickens
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for frying
Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish 

In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they're completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight. 

Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper (or foil). 

In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330 degrees. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.


Dan said...

My mouth is watering and it's not even 10 a.m.!

Maggie said...

Now I'm dying to make this! Yum!

Judy said...

Dan told me this is the best meal you've ever made.

I love fried chicken but it's my pie crust. I'm always afraid it will come out raw inside and I've tried deep frying twice and started fires both times.

I was led to believe by by my kitchen spy that this was deep fried but I guess not. I think I can handle one inch of oil. Also I now have an instant read thermometer, thanks Donna

I'm going to do this with 1/2 chicken this Sunday just for Larry and I. Wish me luck.

Lisa said...

Dan: Ha! Sorry to pass along my craving.

Maggie: You should!

Judy: Yes, one thing I liked about this recipe is that it doesn't call for a vat of oil. And using a deep pot helps keep down the messiness. I admit to poking a few of the pieces with a paring knife to make sure they were done, and all came out perfectly cooked through and moist. You can do it!!

Daniel said...

If you're still feeling unsure of yourself, mom, there's a $15 Thomas Keller fried chicken kit at William Sonoma with your name on it.

Colin P. Delaney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin P. Delaney said...

I've never tried fried chicken because of the "vat of oil," but this method looks amazing. I just bought a whole chicken for roasting, but maybe I'll Kellerize it instead...

Julie said...

This is such a fun end of summer recipe to take on! I'm going to make this for our annual back to school dinner. Thanks!

Lisa said...

CPD: Yeah, no vat of oil necessary. Let me know how it goes!

Julie: How fun! I hope you love it.


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