Monday, March 15, 2010

Beautifully fried chicken


Now, I don't know about you, but I eat a lot of chicken. Since I'm trying to improve my diet by not eating so much cheese, chicken seems to be my main go-to protein. I jokingly tell my friends I would be a vegetarian if chicken were a vegetable, and to some extent, that's true.

Now, let me tell you about this chicken. For some reason, I don't care much for brined meats. It's just a personal taste thing. Where most people think it tastes "well seasoned" and juicy, I just think it tastes processed and salty. Yes, I don't eat a lot of salt. I rarely salt my food after cooking, and I have been known to try to wipe the salt off tortilla chips at the local Mexican Restaurant.

So, you will probably not see me brine meats in the near future. However, that doesn't mean I don't love marinade. In my opinion, the best way to fry chicken is to start by letting it soak in buttermilk or a spiced buttermilk mixture overnight in the refrigerator. This gives the chicken a great moistness and tenderness, while not adding the saltiness from a classic brine.

There are also a few other differences in the way I fry chicken than you may be used to. Most traditional breading technique calls for flouring the chicken, dipping it in egg or more buttermilk, followed by more flour. I don't do that. While I like a crispy fried chicken as much as the next person, I think my technique gives just as good a crispy coating without extra breading. Trust me, try it once, you will be convinced.

Crispy Fried Chicken

4 chicken breasts, bone in and skin on, or 2 breasts and 2 leg/thigh pieces
3 cups buttermilk
2 T. seasoning salt (I use Johnny's)
1 T. granulated garlic
1 t. pepper
1/2 cup flour
enough oil for frying (about 1-2 cups, depending on the size of your pan)

Place the chicken in a plastic or glass bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken, making sure the buttermilk coats all pieces thoroughly. Place in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours. If you can, rotate the chicken once or twice.

Place the chicken on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to drain. Pour 1-2" of oil in your fry pan and put on medium high heat. Ideally, you want your oil to reach about 350 degrees.

After chicken has drained a bit - you want a thin coating of buttermilk on your chicken, but not a lot. Mix garlic, seasoning salt, and pepper together and sprinkle over both sides of the chicken. Heat oven to 350.

When your oil has heated and is shimmering, coat each piece of chicken in flour and fry 3-4 minutes on each side. You will probably have to fry in batches, so don't coat the chicken in flour until you are ready to place it in the oil. The chicken won't be completely cooked, but you finish it in the oven.

Once golden on each side, place all the chicken in the oven for 15-20 minutes until juices run clear, or an instant read thermometer reads about 160.

Let rest for 5 minutes, then enjoy!

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