thomas keller's buttermilk fried chicken

I know that Thomas Keller's Fried Chicken from his Ad Hoc cookbook has been done to death all over the food blogosphere. But as I was looking through some of my old photos and reminiscing about times where I used to eat fried foods without abandon, I re-realized how friggin amazing this chicken is. 

And I'm not just saying that because it's fried chicken. Well, to be honest, I can't recall a time that I've ever turned down a piece of fried chicken. I'll eat it from the grocery store, Pop Eye's, KFC; I might even get it from a gas station, if given the opportunity. (Don't we all have a trashy side?) Even so, my usually discerning palette can recognize that this particular fried chicken is something special. It doesn't just taste of grease and chicken skin (although there is certainly nothing wrong with that), but explodes with clean and discernible aromatic flavors with each crunchy, crispy, and seasoned bite. And it damn well better, what with the multi-ingredient brine that Keller demands.

12 bay leaves. For real.

I apologize for the lack of visual narrative. There are steps in between - letting the chicken sit in the brine overnight, dredging with seasoned flour, frying in batches - that just aren't that photographically appealing (plus I was trying to entertain guests while covered in flour and frying chicken in two huge vats of oil - not exactly a good opportunity for taking pictures). 

 I've often wondered if Keller's obsession with detail would make him an excellent serial killer, and have cursed his name to the culinary gods when, knee-deep in a middle of a recipe, I read: "Now, caramelize onions, stirring occasionally, for 5 hours." 

As with all Thomas Keller recipes, buckle down, focus on the endgame, and hope for the best.  This one is worth it.

buttermilk fried chicken
8 pieces of chicken 

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

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 cups buttermilk
vegetable oil, for frying
kosher salt  

Thyme and flat leaf parsley for garnishing
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 as dry as you can, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Let the chicken come to room temperature outside of the fridge for 1.5 to 2 hours. Do not skip 
Frying: Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330°. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160°, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.

*I scaled down the original quantities of this recipe, but it still makes a lot of brine - you can double the amount of chicken if necessary. 


Anonymous said...

this is awesome, and yes, the onions are worth it too. damn you keller.

JonathanN said...

Great recipe ! I made it for my wife! It`s delicious!!! Thanks for sharing!

Chris said...

These look delicious. What is your opinion of fried chicken and waffles? Also, can I start making requests???