Monday, May 21, 2012

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

The Colonel's got nothing on this fried chicken. Seriously. This is the best fried chicken I've ever had. When it comes to making fried chicken, many recipes are alike. It really comes down to the mixture of spices used to season the chicken, the type of brine or marinade used (sometimes none at all), and the breading procedure. Some people double coat, while some single coat; some dip in egg, and some don't; some fry in oil, and some in lard.

It's really a personal preference, and I can't speak for your fried chicken preference, but I can definitely speak for your taste buds (believe it or not) and tell you that this fried chicken not only boasts an intensely crispy crust, but moist and juicy chicken beyond belief that is so flavorful you'll think you've died and gone to fried chicken heaven (aka the South).

To compliment this good-as-can-be fried chicken, I made mashed potatoes, my favorite buttermilk biscuit recipe (so flaky and buttery), and a simple sauce made with honey and hot sauce that I drizzled over the fried chicken and the biscuits. Simply mix together honey and some hot sauce of your choice (Frank's Red Hot, Tabasco, and Sriracha are good choices), adjusting the spice level to your liking. It's a fun alternative to gravy!

If you are troubled by butchering your own chicken, you can ask your butcher to do it for you, or purchase a mixture of chicken pieces (on the bone) equal to the amount of chicken called for in the recipe. I do recommend breaking down your own chicken because it's all kinds of fun! At least to me. There are tutorials all over the internet and in many cookbooks on various methods to break down chickens. It's a lot easier than you would think, and becomes second nature after practicing on a few birds.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Makes 10 pieces (4 to 5 servings)

1 (3 to 4 lb) fryer/broiler chicken cut into 10 pieces (2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings with wing tips intact, 4 breast halves--reserve backbone for making stock or discard it)
Canola or peanut oil, for frying

Buttermilk Marinade:
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 T. kosher salt
2 T. ground black pepper

Whisk together the marinade ingredients and pour into an airtight container. Add the chicken pieces and submerge them in the marinade. Refrigerate in the airtight container for at least 3 or 4 hours, but up to 8 hours is preferable for absorbing even more flavor.

Fill a large pot with high sides (such as a Dutch oven) about 2-inches high with oil and heat the oil to 350 degrees F (a deep fry thermometer is helpful with accuracy). Meanwhile, whisk together the coating ingredients. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade (do not drain the marinade off the pieces) and dredge them in the flour mixture until well-coated. Set the pieces aside until ready to fry. If the chicken pieces start to absorb too much of the flour and are wet before they are ready to fry, toss them back into the flour mixture to give them a thorough coating before putting them in the oil (I like to bread only as many pieces as I plan to fry in each batch to avoid this problem).

When the oil is up to the proper temperature, gently place half the chicken pieces skin-side down in the oil and fry for about 7 to 8 minutes per side (the wings will likely cook faster), or until dark golden brown and crispy on both sides. Do not overcrowd the pan. Only cook as many pieces as will comfortably fit in the pan. Adding too much chicken at once will drastically lower the temperature of the oil. Remove the cooked chicken using tongs and drain on a paper towel-lined sheet pan. After the first batch is done, return the oil to 350 degrees F before adding the next round of chicken pieces. Fry the remaining chicken the same way.

Rest the chicken for a few minutes before enjoying.


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