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?
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.
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
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.