The other day on The Big Wild, the boys and I were talking chicken. I said then and I’ll say now, it’s one of my favorite things to cook and eat, hands down. Y’all missed the pre-show banter, where I told them about the episode of Portlandia where the restaurant patrons wanted to know the gender of the chicken and if he had any friends…
Anyway, if you’re gonna do chicken, there are plenty of ways to do them, but the pinnacle, the top o’ th’ heap, that which must be done is fried; and if you’re gonna do fried, you gotta do it right, and this, friends and neighbors, is the right way to do it…
SPOILER ALERT!! If you want to make the best fried chicken ever, it does not happen in an hour, or even overnight; in fact, if you back-to-backed the process as best you could, it takes 24 hours to make it happen.
Is it worth it, you ask?
Fact is, if you’ve been to any one of a number of legendary chicken joints, especially tradition-laden ones, I will dang near guarantee you that they go to this level of prep to make what drives you crazy, preys on your mind and sends you back again and again for more – Trust me…
That said, it’s not hard, it just takes time, so here we go.
You’ll want a whole frier, and if you can get one that doesn’t have all sorts of artificial crap in it, you should.
Brine that bird. What, and why, you ask? Brining creates a delicious, juicy chicken, plain and simple. It’s scientific fact and not fiction that it works to do exactly that; trust me… You can add stuff to the brine if you want some additional flavor notes; Bay leaf, sage, basil, pepper, citrus, garlic, whatever you like is cool – The brining process will help carry flavors into your bird beautifully.
Put 1 cup of kosher non-iodized salt and 1 cup of granulated white sugar into 1 gallon of water over medium high heat and stir completely until all is dissolved; don’t allow the mixture to boil. Cool your brine completely by dropping the pan into an ice bath. Place the bird into a non-reactive vessel that will allow the brine to completely cover and refrigerate, covered, for 8 to 12 hours.
Butcher that sucker. If you’ve never done this, you should, in fact, you need to. You want, naturally, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 2 backs, and 2 breasts: I like to quarter the breasts into strips, because they cook better and are more reasonably portioned than the big kahuna, capiche? Do not freak out if where you cut what doesn’t come to you right off the bat; it will with time and it is an excellent skill to exercise.
Buttermilk up! nothing brings richness and fights off funky notes like buttermilk – This is the finest use I know of for that noble beverage. Rinse the bird thoroughly, by pouring out the brine, refilling the vessel and letting the bird sit for 15 minutes; repeat twice more. Then cover that baby in buttermilk and let it rest, refrigerated and covered, for 8 hours more.
Side note: THOROUGHLY clean everything that had the chicken in it or on it – We scrub and use Clorox cleanup for this.
Put on your coat. You gotta have a dredge of some kind and this is my fave, hands down. Mix well in a bag
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
NOTE: in keeping with our blatant spice snobbishness, we used alderwood smoked salt and grains of paradise…
Insert chicken and shake until well coated.
Time to fry, baby. We use a very nice self contained indoor frier, but you can use whatever you have and are comfy with. The folks I got my routine from fried in lard, and I love that, but I love my arteries too… We use Tri-Fry, which is a blend of Canola, Grapeseed and Safflower oils that’s cholesterol and sodium free, high in Omega 6 and Linoleic Acid and a bunch healthier than a lot of alternatives; try it, you’ll like it.
Make sure your oil is at 375 degrees F and keep it there; that means introducing a couple of pieces of chicken and giving things enough time for your heater to recover the desired temp before you add more: Doing so assures you of light taste and minimal sogginess, which is, of course, highly desirable.
We paired our chicken with mashed spuds, pepper gravy and handmade coleslaw and dressing – It works really well…