Try this mouth-watering chicken

Published 12:03 am Saturday, August 15, 2015

This fried chicken is delectable. | Connie Anderson/Star-News

This fried chicken is delectable. | Connie Anderson/Star-News

Delicious hot from the frying pan or cold from the fridge, fried chicken pleases with every mouthwatering bite. New fried chicken joints are popping up everywhere and chefs are having a good time putting their own stamp on these ventures. Every food magazine I read for July had secret recipes from several chefs. These recipes varied in delicious ways but all agree on these basic fried chicken tenets.

Brining is critical not only for creating the juiciest chicken, but also for seasoning it to the bone. Through salt is a constant, the brine can take several forms. Some recipes use a liquid brine scented with citrus and spiked with red pepper; another can offer a dry brine packed with spices; and some call for semi-poaching the chicken in a brine-like broth before frying.

A coating adds crunch. Another key component is the crisp coating. Not only does it add another layer of flavor, but it also helps keep the chicken juicy. All of the chefs do this step a little differently, but they agree that it’s important to let the coated, uncooked chicken sit for a little before frying so that the coating sets up and sticks to the skin rather than sliding off into the hot oil.

Frying in batches prevents greasy chicken. There are two ways to fry chicken; deep frying, in which the chicken is fully submerged in hot oil, and pan-frying, in which the chicken is partially submerged and flipped during cooking. No matter the method used, it is important to fry in batches so the oil’s temperature doesn’t drop too much when the chicken is added to the pot and to adjust the heat to maintain a hot frying temperature. If the oil cools down, the fried chicken will be greasy and soggy.

Cooling on a rack keeps it crisp. All the chefs recommend elevating the chicken on a rack after frying so that it doesn’t get soggy after it cools.

I used the southern fried chicken recipe from the August/September “Fine Cooking” magazine. The recipe is from chef Robert Stehling of Charleston, S.C. He opened the Hominy Grill in 1996 (I have eaten there and it is delicious) but he refused to serve fried chicken for years. He served chicken many different ways but customers kept asking him to serve fried chicken, so he developed a recipe which was a peppery mix of spices which gave his chicken personality. He uses rice flour in his dredging mix which lightens the coating and prevents bits of the batter from falling off. He has now opened a new restaurant called Chick’s Fry House which, of course, features his chicken and other fried fare.

This is good. Try it!

Southern Fried Chicken

Serves 4

For the dry brine:

3/4 tsp. dried basil

¼ tsp. celery seeds

¾ tsp. yellow mustard seeds

½ dried bay leaf

½ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

½ tsp. sweet paprika

½ tsp. black peppercorns

¼ tsp. dried thyme

1 ¾ oz. kosher salt (1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. Morton)

1 whole chicken (3 ½ to 4lb.) chicken, cut into 10 pieces, or 3 to 3 ½ lb. of your favorite bone-in, skin-on pieces

For dredging and frying:

9 oz. (2 cups) all-purpose flour

5 oz. (1 cup) rice flour

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 gallon peanut or canola oil

Dry-Brine the chicken:

In a spice grinder, grind the basil, celery seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaf, garlic powder, pepper flakes, paprika, peppercorns, and thyme to a powder. Transfer to a small container and stir in the salt.

Sprinkle 2 tsp. of the dry brine all over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours.

Dredge and fry:

In a large bowl, whisk the flours with 2 Tbs. of the dry-brine spice mix. (The leftover spice mix will keep in an airtight container for up to three months.)

Whisk the buttermilk and eggs in a separate bowl. Fit an 8-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot with a deep-fry thermometer, add the oil, and heat over medium high to 340°F.

Meanwhile, dunk a piece of chicken into the buttermilk mixture, then roll in the flour mixture until well coated. Set aside on a platter and repeat with the other pieces.

Set a wire rack on a paper-towel-lined rimmed baking sheet. Working in batches, fry the chicken, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain 340°F, until as instant-read thermometer registers 165°F in the thickest part of each piece, 13-15 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to the rack to cook for a few minutes before serving.

Tool tip: Use a skimmer (not tongs) to lift the chicken out of the oil and keep the crisp coating intact.

I just went to the Antiques Forum at the Historic New Orleans Collection. In a presentation on silver and natural motifs they presented a late 19th century pair of tongs for serving fried chicken—-using chicken feet as the design for the tong’s ends! Just what every Southerner needs!