California Soul

California Soul

Say the words fried chicken and what images do you conjure in your mind’s eye? Is it platefuls of comfort? The crunch of cripsy skin giving way to steamy, juicy chicken within? Their partners in crime, by the names of mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, and collard greens?

Southern Soul?

Well, we here in California have soul, too.

The legendary Thomas Keller has proven that Californians know their fried chicken, with droves of fried chicken seekers making pilgrimages to his Yountville restaurant, Ad Hoc, for what has been dubbed “Fried Chicken Night.” Twice a month, on a Monday, you will find Bay Area locals who played hookie from work alongside tourists who have cleared their schedules to satisfy their deep fried cravings.

We all can’t be in Napa, on a designated Monday night no less, but we can all give in to a good helping of fried chicken at home. For Challenge 7 of Project Food Blog, I wanted to show you how to make a plateful of fried chicken that will make you feel as though you played hookie from work for a day. With a nod to Keller’s brining approach, I simplify things by  brining the chicken in a spicy buttermilk, resulting in an exceptionally crisp and flaky crust and moist and tender chicken.

You Deserve a Treat

I know some of you might be shaking your head, saying, oh no, fried chicken is just too greasy and bad for you. But before you deny yourself some finger lickin’ goodness, perhaps I can ease your fried food anxiety a bit.

The key to deep frying is doing it right. As I mention in the video, oil temperature is critical. With the correct oil temperature, the chicken will flash fry upon first contact with the oil, creating a seal with the outer surface of the food. If this is done correctly, there will be minimal oil absorption, and the chicken within will be succulent and moist.

However, if the oil temperature is low or not at the optimum temperature, the food will simply soak and absorb more oil. This results in bad tasting chicken that is bad for you.

So go ahead and fry the right way. I guess if you want to be all healthy about it, you could omit the breading, but heck, that defeats the purpose of fried chicken. Besides, once in a while, you deserve to treat yourself to something sinfully savory.

Deep Frying Tips


Jalapeño Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from: Fried Chicken 101, The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, by The Editors of Martha Stewart Living Magazine, 2000; Southwestern-Style Fried Chicken Wings, by Emeril Legasse, 2007; Buttermilk-Brined Fried Little Chickens, Boulevard: The Cookbook, by Nancy Oakes and Pamela Mazzola, 2005.

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2  jalapeño peppers, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Several tablespoons Tabasco, to taste
  • 6-8 small pieces of chicken, cut up, skin on
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Combine buttermilk, salt, jalapeno peppers, garlic, lime juice, tobasco and chicken in a resealable bag or air tight container to marinate overnight or at least 4 hours.

Combine flour, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and baking powder in a bag or large mixing bowl. Dredge the chicken pieces and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes (ideally, one hour in the refrigerator), on a wire rack and baking sheet.

Gently heat oil to 350° F. Depending on the size of your chicken, fry for about 4-6 minutes per side, until the crust is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 190°F (thigh meat). Drain on several layers of paper towels and allow to rest approximately 7 minutes before serving.



    • Liren

      Thank you, Kimba :) The great thing about this challenge is that it forced me to keep my kitchen clean for days, LOL :)

  1. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    Liren – NICE JOB!! I love Ad Hoc and the cookbook is amazing! Your video came out great along with the post! I am casting a vote for you and I wish you all the best with challenge #7! I know you will sail through. Can hardly wait to see your pumpkin delight! Will miss all of you at the festival – but have a terrific time!!! :-)

    • Liren

      Lisa, we missed you this weekend! I hope that you had a wonderful time at your event, and that next year, you can join us for the next Foodbuzz Festival.

      Thank you so much for your encouragement – this was hard to do, just me myself and I (and the tripod), but I did the best I could, within the time frame originally given. I really appreciate your positive thoughts!

    • Liren

      Hi Olga! Oh, I have to say, it definitely tastes better than KFC!

  2. Winnie

    Great job on your video Liren! I love your kitchen and your fried chicken looks really delicious…plus you’re very photogenic!

  3. Magic of Spice

    Love the title…We defiantly have soul here in California :)
    Great video and perfect choice for the challenge…Be back to vote!
    P.S. If a vegetarian is captivated by the video…well you know everyone will be :)

    • Liren

      If I can captivate a vegetarian, then I am hopeful!!! Thank you so much for always supporting me, you’re the best!

    • Magic of Spice

      How could I not ;) Just stopped back by to vote…Best wishes to you on this challenge (not that you need luck).
      Have a lovely week!

  4. Spicy Green Mango

    Liren!!! You are too cute! This is awesome! Congrats on your first cooking video—I know that 6 minutes on YouTube is a lot of prep, sweat and editing. Great job!

    • Liren

      Thanks Ms. Spicy! Whew, just thinking about doing this video is making me tired all over again, LOL. Thank you for appreciating the work that went into it – I know you know it well :)

  5. CarolineAdobo

    Yum, fried chicken is one of my weaknesses. Great job on your first video, Liren. I expect to see more videos from you from now on. And great to know a deep fryer is so kitchen-worthy ;)

  6. Cristina @ TeenieCakes

    I need one of those great deep fryers…then maybe I wouldn’t mind frying foods :) Been wanting to try that recipe from the ad hoc at home cookbook.

    Very well done, Liren!

  7. Trish

    Great job, Liren!! That was a very difficult challenge and you did a great job. It was very informative and you were very composed. Good luck. Of course, I’ll be pulling for you!

  8. Jean

    Nicely done, Liren! Your were nervous for nothing–I couldn’t have been as composed as you were. Great job. :-)

  9. Monet

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m so impressed with your post. You did an amazing job and you helped demystify what has always been a scary prospect. You have my full support!

  10. merry jennifer

    Wonderful video, Liren! You have me wanting to buy an electric deep fryer now. Plus, I have this strange craving for fried chicken. Hmm…


  11. Jacob's Kitchen

    Beautifully done Liren! =) You put us all to shame. That chicken is mouthwatering, and the marinade sounds really flavorful. I could definitely go for a couple of pieces right about now. You always have my vote!

    Best of luck!!! =)

  12. Hot Polka Dot's Mom

    Great video and delicious chicken! Very flavourful recipe.

  13. Kitchen Runway

    Great job Liren! You have a great voice and presence on camera! Good luck with this round! Thanks to you – now I’m craving fried chicken!

    • Liren

      Aw, you are too kind! I’m glad you think so :) It was great to meet you, Quyen! I’m glad we were able to enjoy that delicious gala dinner together!

    • Liren

      Thank you, Kelsey! I need all the good luck wishes I can get!

  14. Brian @ A Thought For Food

    As you have shown, anyone can have soul!!! This sounds like the perfect combination of spicy and comfort… something you want to eat outside with all of you friends and a glass of beer!

    It was wonderful meeting you but, as you said, it wasn’t enough. We’ll have to do it again soon!

    • Liren

      Brian, I think they will have to extend these Foodbuzz Festivals so there is more time to meet and hang out with everyone! So glad to have finally met you, though, and yes, it would be nice to meet again soon!

      As for fried chicken and beer – a great combination. Maybe it’s time for me to start brewing my own :)

  15. norma

    Great job! Good luck! I wanted to say that it was a pleasure meeting you this past weekend. You are just the way I imagined, sweet, kind and beautiful.

    • Liren

      Norma, I was SO happy to meet you, too! You were warm and vivacious, just as you write, and I’m so glad that we found one another on Saturday evening! Your family is so very lucky to have you :)

  16. Lauren @ Eat, Drink, and Be Hopeful

    Hey Lirin-

    It was so nice meeting you this weekend (through Gina, my roommate)!!! I have enjoyed looking through all of your posts, and can’t wait to read more of your Project Food Blog Posts. Good Luck!!!

    • Liren

      Thanks for the well wishes on PFB, Lauren! I definitely appreciate it!!

  17. Debi Shawcross

    Having never met you in person, it’s fun to see you live, on camera! You are as charming as your voice reads in your posts.

    Great job with your fried chicken. You looked relaxed (even around a vessel of hot oil) and your instruction was clear and concise.
    Well done Liren~

    • Liren

      Aw, Debi, thank you so much :) I’m relieved to hear your positive (and generous) comments about the video. After all was said and done, I was tempted to do the whole thing over again, but there you go, the video is me through and through. If I ever have the courage to do another one, I imagine it will be much smoother, I definitely learned a lot from this experience!

  18. Lizzy

    Fried chicken is always finger lickin good…With your tips I wouldn’t be as much afraid about it going straight to my hips…

  19. Lisa~Korean American Mommy

    Liren, love the recipe video. I was at ad hoc when I was visiting SF for the foodbuzz festival but wasn’t able to try Keller’s famous fried chicken so this is a treat! Thanks for sharing.

    • Liren

      Hi Lisa! I’m so glad you got to enjoy Ad Hoc, but yes, it’s hard to make it up there on those elusive Fried Chicken days. No worries, hope this recipe gives you a taste of it at home :)

  20. Beth

    This looks so good! I have tried frying chicken over the past few months but I don’t have a deep fryer. I either use an electric skillet where the temperature can be regulated or a cast iron skillet on my stovetop. Do you have any tips for achieving great results with either of these two methods?

    • Liren

      Hi Beth! Your electric skillet or cast iron skillet will both work very well! Put enough oil in either skillet to reach halfway up the sides. Since your electric skillet has a temperature gauge, set it to 350 degrees. If you go with your cast iron skillet, bring the oil to a gentle boil, over medium-low heat. It would help if you could use a thermometer to check the temperature. Since the chicken will probably not be fully submerged, the frying time may take longer, up to 10 minutes per side. Just make sure you check the temperature of the chicken – a thigh should reach 190 degrees F. Hope this helps – have fun and good luck!

  21. Lindsey

    Go you Liren!!! Looks DELICIOUS (whether you’re southern or not!!). And seriously, your food photos should be in magazines. They’re gorgeous.

    • Liren

      I’m so glad you think so, Lindsey, thank you! I agree, you don’t have to be southern to make or appreciate good fried chicken :)

  22. Mhel B

    Yay! Finally, Liren on video,its the closest thing and the only possible way for me to meet you, since were worlds apart! Love the jalapeno fried. I can still here the popping sounds…. yum!!

    • Liren

      Glad you enjoyed it, Mhel! Nice to “meet” you! These PFB videos are fun – it’s great to see all the participants, isn’t it?

  23. Liren

    I just have to say thank you everyone for your supportive words! To think that I appeared calm and collected makes me chuckle :) When I get around to it, I should show you some bloopers.

    I’m glad so many of you found the video interesting – and perhaps even helpful!

  24. Reeni

    I’m craving some fried chicken now! I loved your video! Thanks for all the great tips!

  25. Jeannie

    That is a wonderful video, I would love to have one of that fryer, sure makes frying so much cleaner! Great job!

  26. Margaret from Savory Sweet Living

    Fried chicken is one of my ultimate comfort food so I love that you did this recipe! I’ve always wanted to get a deep fryer but afraid that I’d start to fry everything I get my hands on as I have such a weakness for fried food. I’m so glad you explained the importance of the oil temperature when frying. Great job and good luck!

  27. Ben

    Fried chicken is my favorite food ever, and I have been dying to try this recipe. Great tips, Liren! And so nice to see you again—Foodbuzz Fest was too short!

  28. Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris

    I must thank you because your chicken jalapeño is something that practically does not exist here in Paris, nor in Buenos Aires for that matter..I love it when I learn new things! On top of it, you did it with mastery, as always! Good luck!

  29. Heena @ Tiffin Tales

    One of the earliest videos I saw and still remember. I like how your chicken is crisp and succulent as against greasy outside/dry inside. You have my vote. Good luck!
    P.S. Linked to your site in my recent post.

    • Liren

      So glad you liked the chicken! Thanks for letting me know!

  30. Jackie


    When you made this recipe did you use the jalapeno peppers with the seeds or without the seeds, if you used it with the seeds, could kids eat it too.

    • Liren

      Hi Jackie, when I make this, I base it on the the heat of the jalapeno. Sometimes you just never know how hot they are going to be. In general, I find that even if I put the seeds into the marinade, children can definitely still eat the chicken! The heat is definitely present but subtle, and my children love it.

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