At least once (and sometimes twice) a year, I make a fried chicken dinner for some friends who love the stuff so much that, as they say, it beats out all other foods for their respective “death row meals.” This year, along with the two birds (for 3 girls), I served: deviled eggs, an avocado and citrus salad, biscuits and last-of-the-season creamed corn.
For a long time I struggled with fried chicken – how to keep the outside crisp and golden but ensure the meat was cooked through? I finally found a method (thank you, Ina Garten) that is pretty fool proof: fry the chicken in hot oil until golden and then finish it off in the oven. But because I cannot leave well enough alone (see below), I have continued to tweak the recipe. Until now. (I’m pretty sure.) I think it’s perfect.
What I have decided is this: good fried chicken is a bit of a potchke, but it’s worth the multiple steps for a final product that is flavorful all the way through, moist, crispy and won’t give you salmonella. Both this recipe and Thanksgiving turkey have made me a believer in the power of brine, and while I know that delicious biscuits don’t require buttermilk, delicious fried chicken does. Enjoy!
(2) 4-5lb whole chickens, cut into 10 pieces each (I cut the breasts in quarters so each whole breast yields 4 pieces)
½ cup kosher salt
1 qt buttermilk
3 cups flour
1 cup corn meal (stone ground)
2 tablespoons chicken spice rub of your choice (optional) or 1 tsp black pepper
For the brine:
In a large bowl, combine kosher salt with 2.5 quarts water and stir to dissolve. Add the chicken parts, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Drain the brine and rinse the chicken parts with cold water. Pour buttermilk over the drained chicken parts, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
For the fry:
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two rimmed baking sheets with tin foil (for ease of clean-up) and place oven-safe racks on sheets. Fill a large stock pot or Dutch oven with canola oil to a depth of one inch and heat over a medium-high flame to 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. In a large bowl, combine the flour, corn meal and spice rub (if using) or black pepper.
Take chicken pieces from the buttermilk, allow excess liquid to drip off, and dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Carefully place chicken pieces in hot oil and fry until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken pieces to racks set over lined baking sheets. Cook chicken in oven for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve hot or, if you prefer, at room temperature.