My love for fried chicken, much like my love for noodles, is not very discerning. I can definitely tell the difference between good and bad noodles and chicken, but my love is so all-encompassing that I can forgive faults easily. With so many kinds of fried chicken in the world, how would I be able to tell good from bad if I didn’t try them all?
Chang’s Fried Chicken in Octo Vinaigrette is pretty damn tasty, but one fried chicken recipe in the whole book just leaves me wanting more. It’s too bad he didn’t include the recipes for the Korean and Southern style fried chickens of his Fried Chicken Feast.
Even if they were in the book, knowing Chang, the recipes would be multi-day, multi-step processes. Not wanting to miss out on making more homemade fried chicken, I found a stand-in that is both multi-day and multi-step: Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Fried Chicken.
People on the internet have long been singing the praises of Keller’s fried chicken so I couldn’t wait to try it. I’ve had Ad Hoc at Home for a while now, but I’ve only made the chicken pot pie and vanilla cupcakes. (A certain other cookbook has been taking up entirely too much time!)
Keller cooking style is precise, detailed and well-thought out, as is reflected in his Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe. Chicken is brined for 8-12 hours in a lemon, bay leaf, flat leaf parsley, thyme, honey, garlic, peppercorn and salt concoction, then dried and brought to room temperature before dredging in a seasoned flour mixture, then buttermilk, then seasoned flour again.
The flour is seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, kosher salt and black pepper. Be careful not to breathe too hard when mixing everything up. I accidentally inhaled some onion powder and had a coughing attack for nearly 5 minutes. I think I still have some onion powder stuck in my lungs. It was so bad that Mike actually offered to finish mixing up the spices.
The coating on the fried chicken is phenomenal and well worth the onion lungs. Dredging in flour, then buttermilk, then flour again creates an incredibly crunchy skin. I’m talking audibly crunchy skin! It was also nice that the coating caused minimal spattering when frying.
I know lots of people who don’t like deep-frying at home, but I grew up watching my mom fry chicken (she makes some wicked deep-fried wings) so I’m not afraid of a little hot oil. What does concern me is the amount of fried chicken I can consume in one sitting.
It took all of my willpower to stop after two pieces. I know, it sounds lame, but after 4 and a half bowls of ramen in one day, I really have to cut back a bit. It was genius saving some of the fried chicken because it was awesome straight out of the fridge the next day.
In the introduction of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe Keller says, “if there’s a better fried chicken, I have not tasted it.” Does his chicken live up to his claim? It is a pretty good fried chicken. Super-crunchy skin gives way to moist, juicy, tender meat. Is there a better fried chicken out there? I think I have to reserve judgment, just so I’ll have to keep looking.
I scaled the recipe down a bit and still had a ton of brine and coating so you could easily double the amount of chicken I used.
Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe
8 pieces of chicken (I used legs and thighs)
1/2 gallon water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup honey
6 bay leaves
1/2 head of garlic, cut horizontally
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/4 of a bunch of thyme sprigs
1/4 of a bunch of flat leafed parsley sprigs
Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
3 cups all purpose flour
1/8 cup garlic powder
1/8 onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
oil for deep-frying
Thyme and flat leaf parsley for garnishing
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, rinse and pat the chicken dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Let the chicken come to room temperature outside of the fridge, 1 and a half hours to two hours.
Bring the oil to 320˚F in a pot deep enough so the oil does not come up more than one-third of the way. You want two inches of oil in the pot.
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 tray.
When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of chicken into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease, so adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature. Fry 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.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly.
While the chicken rests, add the herb sprigs to the hot oil and let them cook and crisp for a few minutes. Arrange the chicken on the serving platter and garnish with the fried herb sprigs.