What do you get when you cross Edna Lewis' southern fried chicken with Thomas Keller's? Last night's best fried chicken EVER. Now, I know you can buy it ready made at your grocery store, or at KFC, but they are not even close to the fried chicken you make at home.
Ever since I moved to Georgia I have had a yen for southern fried chicken, the real stuff. There's nothing like home made fried chicken just out of the frying pan. Most recipes recommend buying a whole chicken and cutting it up. This way, the pieces are smaller and this makes for an optimal ratio of meat to crust. But I was too lazy to do that so I went ahead and bought some individual packages of thighs, wings, legs and small breasts (bone in with skin!) used half and froze the other half.
Edna Lewis and Thomas Keller brine their chickens first overnight in water and a salt solution and then pass it through buttermilk just before dredging in flour. I skipped the brining and instead soaked the chicken overnight in the buttermilk. Ms. Lewis does a combination of lard and butter for frying and adds smoked ham strips to the fat while Keller uses peanut or canola. I used 3 strips of bacon fat to flavor the vegetable oil. As to dredging, Lewis adds cornstarch to the flour and does not add any spices. Keller only uses flour but spices it. I took the best of both worlds by adding cornstarch and spices to the flour. The result, the crispiest juiciest, tastiest chicken you could ever have!
For dinner last night I accompanied it with Bobby Flay's Cole Slaw and served Thomas Keller's Lemon Tart for dessert...I was almost canonized!
One 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 quart buttermilk
3 strips of bacon
vegetable oil for frying
3 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
250 degree oven for keeping fried pieces warm
Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the buttermilk so that it covers all the pieces. Place in the refrigerator covered, overnight
1. To prepare the chicken for frying: Place the chicken on a wire rack so it discards some of the buttermilk .
2. Prepare the dredge by blending together the flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, paprika salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or on wax paper.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the fat for frying by putting the bacon slices into a heavy skillet or frying pan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes to render the fat and cool until pieces brown.. Add a little oil if needed.Remove the bacon to a paper towel but keep the fat in the pan. Add enough vegetable oil to the pan to measure 3 inches. and just before frying, increase the temperature to medium-high and heat the fat to 335°F (170°C).
Dredge the drained chicken pieces thoroughly in the flour mixture, then pat well to remove all excess flour.
4. Slip some of the chicken pieces, skin side down, into the heated fat. (Do not overcrowd the pan, and fry in batches if necessary.) Cook for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Drain thoroughly on a wire rack or on crumpled paper towels, and place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm while you fry the rest of the chicken. Make sure you do not keep pieces in the oven for more than 10-15 minutes or chicken will dry out. Serve hot or at room temperature
Photo: Thomas Keller Ad Hoc