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…

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.



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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot

    Lovely video Liren! Your chicken looks delicious and you are so dang pretty! Good luck in the challenge!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. Jeannie

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

  8. Reeni

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

  9. 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!

  10. 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?

  11. 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 :)

  12. 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!

  13. 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 :)

  14. 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…

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