Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ad Hoc at Home: Buttermilk Fried Chicken


I have an admission to make... And it might mean my southern cooking license will be taken from me... I have never made fried chicken. Ever. At least until today.

For my birthday I ordered myself a copy of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. My favorite, most drool-worthy picture in the entire book is his fried chicken. It was inspiring. So I made up the brine recipe, soaked the chicken pieces overnight, dipped them in the flour and buttermilk, and spent the next 40 minutes hovering over the oil like an overanxious mother. My conclusion? It's way too hard to keep the oil temperature steady.

Nevertheless, my chicken came out brown and crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. It's quite a bit darker than the picture in the cookbook, but I followed the directions to a "T", I promise! Ah, well. It took me five or six times to get my buttermilk biscuits the way I wanted them, so I have a feeling this is the beginning of a long fried chicken journey. At least it's a delicious one.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
From Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

For the brine:
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
About ½ ounce (1 large bunch) thyme sprigs
About 2 ounces (1 large bunch) flat leafed parsley sprigs
5 lemons, halved
Two-2½ pound chickens, each chicken cut up in 8 pieces
10 cups peanut oil

For the coating:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 quart buttermilk
Kosher salt

For the brine: Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using.

Rinse the chickens and place the chickens in the cold brine and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat the chicken dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin.

Bring the peanut oil to 340°F. in a 6 quart sauté pan.

Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl and place the buttermilk in a second container. Just before frying, dip each piece of chicken into the coating, patting off the excess, then into the buttermilk and back into the coating. Place the chicken on a parchment lined sheet tray.

When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of dark meat into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease. Adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature. Fry the dark meat for about 13 minutes, to a deep golden brown, cooked throughout and very crisp. Remove the chicken to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Carefully add the white meat to the oil and fry for 6 to 7 minutes until cooked.

Remove to the tray, sprinkle with salt and turn off the heat under the oil. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly. It is very hot when it comes out of the oil.

Cook's Note: Use a 6 quart sauté pan with splatter screen. Be careful. The oil can spurt as the chicken is added and fried, making this a perfect recipe to use a splatter screen. Place a thermometer in the oil to help monitor the proper cooking temperature. It is a good idea to make this brine a day ahead and refrigerate it. Do not add the chicken to warm brine and do not leave the chicken in the brine longer than the specified time or it may become too salty.