Ad Hoc Fried Chicken

July 15, 2009

Dear Thomas,
Gimme fried chicken in the summertime.
Gimme crunchy crusty buttermilk skin.
Gimme fragrant, succulent meat.

I’ll trade you Kirby cucumber and corn slaw.
I’ll trade you flaky biscuits with a million layers.
I’ll trade you plum ketchup.
I’ll trade you truffle honey.

Just gimme fried chicken in the summertime!

Please, Mr. Keller?

My wish was granted in the form of a Food and Wine publication. Ad Hoc, Keller’s casual dining restaurant (if that is even possible), published their recipe for Monday night fried chicken.

I was well into my tryst with buttermilk when I got my eager paws on this recipe. I had already used Bulgarian buttermilk to conquer the Cook’s Illustrated Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits, created mesophilic starter for cream cheese, and worked a sour strawberry cake (trial #5). I had already dreamt of spice brined chicken, fried until crispy. Leave it up to the Thomas Keller to push me in the right direction! Onward!

So…secrets to fried chicken?

1. BRINING – Brining is the poultry chef’s player’s anthem. Here, the big girls soak chicken, duck, and/or pork in a solution of salt, water, spices, aromatics, and herbs. The saltiness of the brine diffuses into the meat, and with that comes water +flavor. This deep soak is an overnight spa for the kiddies, as 8 hours is needed to infuse flavor. Food for thought: Compared to brines that I have done for seared duck breast and banh mi pork shoulder, this brine is saltier.

2. FRYING AT THE APPROPRIATE TEMPERATURE – I must admit, finding the g-spot for frying cuts of chicken may even be harder than the original task. Thomas says that the oil should start at 330F (get out your thermometers!), but cooking chicken at 330F for 20 minutes is unsustainable. The crust gets black, like molasses strap black, while the meat remains underripe. He adds that the chicken should cook on a med-high flame.

Um… what the fuck kind of instruction is that?

My guess is that Thomas wants to start at a higher temperature so that once the chicken goes in, the temperature can drop and recoup its lost degrees seamlessly. That is to say that they degrees will drop to the appropriate frying temperature. In my experience, frying closer to 275-300F for 20 minutes is more doable. And will not result in as many carcinogens.

As we are speaking about temperatures, internal temperature is an important issue as well. Now the books and cautious cooks feel that 160F is the appropriate measure. And yes, I do agree, but when frying, I feel as if it is ok to take chicken out a bit earlier, 150-160F under the assumption that it will continue to cook.

I prepared this chicken on a late Saturday afternoon. It was quite impromptu actually, with only the chicken requiring anticipation. We also made a lightly dressed cabbage, julienned Kirby cucumber, and shucked yellow corn slaw, flaky buttermilk biscuits, whipped garlic potaters, sour plum ketchup, and truffle honey.

Oh! Almost forgot to mention the Lagunitas Sumpin’ Sumpin Ale.

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Adapted from Thomas Keller’s recipe (Serves 4) Total time: 8 Hours to marinate, 1 ½ hours to prep and fry.

Cook’s note: You will want two different thermometers, a frying/candy thermometer that can measure up to 350F, and a thermometer that can measure up to 160F (I use a steamed milk thermometer)

- 1/2 gallon water
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed but not peeled
- 9 bay leaves
- ½ c salt
- 2 T honey
- 1 each lemon and medium orange, zested and juiced
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- ½ small bunch each parsley and thyme
- ½ t each allspice and cloves, smashed once
- 1 t black peppercorns, smashed once

- 1 whole chicken, 2-3 lbs

- 2 T blue cornmeal
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1.5 T garlic powder
- 1.5 T onion powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 cup buttermilk

Frying oil
The night before, prepare the brine:
1. Mix 2 c water and all the other contents on the brine in a sauce pan. Bring to boil and make sure that the honey and salt have both dissolved. Simmer for 3 minutes and then turn off the heat. Allow to cool.

2. Fill a large vessel (one that holds more than 10 cups) with 6 cups of cold water. Mix in the brine until homogenous. Place the whole chicken in the brine and make sure that it is fully submerged. If it is not, place a small plate on top of the chicken to weigh it down. Cover the vessel, and store in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, 1.5 hours before eating:
3. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Cut the chicken into thighs, breasts, wings, and drumsticks.

4. Mix the breading together in a shallow pan – a pie pan is nice.

5. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl.

6. 40 minutes before eating: Heat a large wide wok, fixed with a thermometer, with one inch of oil to 330F.

7. Dip the chicken into the buttermilk and then into the flour. Fry 2-3 piece at a time. Turn the heat down to medium-high. The temperature will decrease to 275-300F. Fry for 20 minutes and turn 3-4 times intermittently. Monitor with a thermometer. As it nears 160F, the chicken will be ready for grubbin! Drain chicken on paper towels or a paper bag. Fry more! Enjoy, with plum ketchup and truffle honey.

Another cook’s note: I made popcorn chicken with the chicken breast. I cubed it, milked it, fried it as above, but it took maybe 1-2 minutes. MUCH FASTER.

This fried chicken is PHENOMENAL. The juiciness is definitely there. Please eat with truffled honey and some sort of ketchup, preferably this plum ketchup! Sweet and tart.

In retrospect we may have eaten too much food as we became comatose after eating so much chicken.

Thank you, Thomas!


Juliana said...

Hi Katie,

Your chicken looks really yummie, although a do not fry food at home I am very tempt to try your recipe. By the way, you asked me about the spring rolls, yes, they are fully cooked, they use a technique were the dough is rubbed in a hot plate, and the layer that sticks to the plate is the skin of the spring roll.

pigpigscorner said...

Looks soooo good! oo buttermilk crust? Never heard of that before. I don't deep fry stuff at home too, but I'm tempted to try this!!

Dewi said...

Hmmm scrumptious!

Anonymous said...

katie this looks incredible. i'm just finishing the omnivore's dilemma (so sad) and in one of the later chapters he brines chicken and grills it over apple tree branches. i smell poultry in my midst...

katie said...

apple tree branches... i need some - perhaps i can yoink some from the apple orchards...

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That chicken looks delicious and crispy!



Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

Your chicken looks great! Since I don't like chicken on the bone, I do what my kids call "My famous fried chicken tenders" I don't have a thermometer, but I do heat canola oil on medium and when I drip a drop of water in the oil and it pops I know its ready. I have found that cooking boneless tenders 3 minutes on each side on medium heat, makes sure they are cooked on the inside and not black on the outside.

I've never brined anything before, that sounds really good. And I love your pictures!

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Man that looks fantastic! I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, but now I may have to head up to Clinton St Baking to get a plate of fried chicken.

Have you ever tried brining in buttermilk? It cuts out a step and I like the extra buttermilkyness.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Okay totally off topic, but I just had to mention that the Word Verification just had me type out "S P E R M S" to leave my last comment

katie said...

hmmm, uncomfortable... LOL. blogger is in advertantly perverted.

Jude said...

Saw that recipe a while back and I've been wanting to try it. Thanks for the reminder.
And I also love Lagunitas beers.

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