I've written about fried chicken a lot because, well, it's pretty high up on the list of best possible things to eat, period. Given that it's one of the best possible things to eat, it's imperative that we make fried chicken as often as possible. We can't know when we shall leave this mortal coil; therefore: the more fried chicken you eat, the better your life will have been. It's in your hands.
Here, I not only give the recipe, but I demonstrate how I personally prefer to cook this infinitely variable preparation. The technique is pan-frying, which I use for chicken and pork chops. Unlike deep-frying, the items are not completely submerged. Ideally the oil level will come halfway up what you're cooking (I have slightly more oil than I need in the video).
I think the secret to this chicken is finishing them in a moderate oven, which allows the thighs and drumsticks to become tender while keeping the exterior crisp.
If you fail to make enough fried chicken during this all-too-brief time on earth, there's only one person to blame. Plan to make fried chicken this week!
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 5 or 6 branches of rosemary, each 4 or 5 inches/10 or 12 centimeters long
- 4 cups water
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 whole chicken
- 3 cups/385 grams all-purpose/plain flour
- 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 cups/480 milliliters buttermilk
- Oil for pan-frying (about 2 ½ cups)
- Make the brine: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent, a few minutes. Add the salt after the onion and garlic have cooked for 30 seconds or so. Add the rosemary and cook to heat it, 30 seconds or so. Add the water and the lemon, squeezing the juice from the wedges into the water and removing any seeds. Bring the water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and allow the brine to cool. Refrigerate it until it’s chilled.
- Cut up the chicken: Remove the legs from the chicken where the thigh connects to the carcass. Separate the leg and the thigh by cutting at the line of fat on the underside of the leg between the two.
- Remove the wing tips and reserve for stock. Remove the wings at the joint where they connect to the carcass. Remove the breast and breastbone from the back of the chicken, slicing along the rib cage and through the joints connecting the breast to the back.
- Cut the breast in half widthwise, and set the triangular piece with the other chicken pieces. Halve the remaining breast piece lengthwise through the keel bone. You should have 9 pieces for frying (the wing tips, neck, back, and gizzard will give you 3 cups of stock; you can freeze them for later use).
- Place the chicken pieces in a large, sturdy plastic bag. Set the bag in a large bowl for support. Pour the cooled brine and aromatics into the bag. Seal the bag so that you remove as much air as possible and the chicken is submerged in the brine. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, agitating the bag occasionally to redistribute the brine and the chicken.
- Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and set on a rack or on paper towels. The chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before you cook it, or it can be cooked immediately. Ideally, it should be refrigerated, uncovered, for a day to dry out the skin, but usually I can’t wait to start cooking it.
- Preheat your oven to 300°F/150°C.
- Combine the flour, pepper, paprika, sea salt, cayenne, and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk to distribute the ingredients. Pour the buttermilk into another bowl. Set a rack on a baking sheet. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shake off the excess, and set the dusted pieces on the rack. Dip the pieces in the buttermilk, then dredge them in the flour and return them to the rack.
- Heat the oil in a high-sided skillet to 350°F/180°C. Add as many chicken pieces as you can without crowding the pan (ideally all the dark meat). Cook the drumsticks and thighs, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes depending on their size. Remove to the rack and put the rack in the oven to finish cooking while you cook the remaining pieces. Put the remaining pieces on the rack and let them cook a little longer while you get the rest of the dinner going.
- This can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance, in which case reduce oven temperature to 200°F/95°C.
Serves 4 to 6
If you liked this post, take a look at these links:
- My recent Le Creuset posts on the mini cocotte: baked eggs and seafood terrine.
- My past post on Graduation Fried Chicken.
- Stephanie Stiavetti’s guest post on gluten-free fried chicken.
- An interesting forum and shop of all kinds and types of hot sauces (hot sauce on chicken is surprisingly good).
© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.