Let me start off by saying “If I can make this incredible crispy fried chicken recipe than so can you”. Why do I say it like that? Because I’ve never really deep fried anything before this recipe. Buttermilk fried chicken, something my husband and I pine over, is reserved to once or twice a year at a restaurant that specializes in it. I stay away from it more from fear of botching it up than anything else. But I read so many fantastic reviews of the buttermilk fried chicken recipe from Chef Thomas Keller (of the famous French Laundry restaurant in CA and Ad Hoc in NYC) that I decided I had to give it a try. And it is everything people have raved about and more! In a word? OUTSTANDING!
Yes – the recipe seems long and that’s because of the brine. But don’t worry if you don’t have all the ingredients for the brine or you don’t want to buy them all (it can get a bit expensive with the bay leaves and herbs). I have made it using only a couple of bay leaves, half the lemons and just the rosemary and it is still just as delicious as ever. Also – the recipe below is for basically two whole chickens but it can easily be cut in half (the brine as well as the batter ingredients).
Keys to success for this recipe: 1) You can’t skip the brine. That’s what keeps the chicken so incredibly moist and flavors the chicken. Although it seems like a lot of work it really isn’t. You basically throw the ingredients in a pot, boil them for a minute and then chill before using. 2) You should start this a day ahead to make the brine. If you are making this for an evening meal you won’t put the chicken in until the day you are going to cook it – but the brine, once made, takes quite a bit of time too cool. Definitely easier to do it a day ahead. 3) Make the brine in a pot large enough to hold the chicken – that’s a time saver and less dishes to wash. 4) Do include all the ingredients in the batter mixture – it gives that crispy crust SO much flavor. 5) Do set up the dipping station (it will consist of three bowls – two for the flour mixture and one for the buttermilk) – it will make things so much easier!
Buttermilk Fried Chicken (adapted a bit from Chef Keller’s recipes)
Brine Ingredients and Directions:
- lemons, halved
- 24 bay leaves
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswwise
- 1/4 cup black peppercorns
- 2 cups kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
- 2 gallons of water
- Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely; then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Chicken, Batter Ingredients and Directions
- chicken pieces from two chickens (4 breast halves, 4 thighs, 4 drumsticks and 4 wings)
- Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
- 1 quart buttermilk
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 cups flour
- 1/4 cup garlic powder
- 1/4 cup onion powder
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- kosher salt
- Add the chicken to the brine and refrigerate the chicken for up to 12 hours. No longer or the chicken may become too salty.
- Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperatures for 1 1/2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
- If you have two large pots (about 6″ deep) and lots of oil, you can cook the dark and the white meat at the same time; if not, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat. No matter what size pot you have, the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of oil and heat to 320 F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Meanwhile, combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment lined baking sheet.
- Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperatures. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperatures and turning the pieces as as necessary for even cooking, 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through (you’ll have to take a piece out and cut through to ensure this), and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet.
- Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. (Putting the pieces skin-side-up will allow the fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin-side-down could trap some of the fat.) Make sure that the oil is at the correct temperature and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean them meat-side-up against the thigh to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with a salt.
- Turn up the heat and heat the oil to 340 F. Meanwhile coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breast into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes or until golden brown, cooked through (again you’ll have to take out a piece and cut through to determine if it is cooked through) and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat. Serve.