MELISSA’S FRIED CHICKEN

A RECENT CONTESTANT ON "FAMILY FEUD" WHEN ASKED TO NAME POPEYE'S FAVORITE FOOD, SHOUTED OUT WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, "FRIED CHICKEN!"  SHE MIGHT BE WRONG ABOUT POPEYE, BUT RIGHT ABOUT THE REST OF US.  THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN IS ONE OF COOKING'S HOLY GRAILS; ONE WHICH I'VE BEEN PURSUING FOR A LONG TIME.  FOR YEARS I RELIED ON THE FAMILY RECIPE -- SEASON WITH SALT AND PEPPER, SHAKE WITH FLOUR IN A BAG, AND FRY IN CRISCO.  THAT VERSION PRODUCES LIGHTLY-CRUSTED, JUICY CHICKEN.  BUT I WAS INTRIGUED BY MELISSA CLARK'S "MAKE-AHEAD FRIED CHICKEN" IN THE NY TIMES AND NOW I'VE MADE IT TWICE, FIRST AS AN EXPERIMENT; SECOND, ON DEMAND FOR SOPHIE'S BIRTHDAY.  MARINATING THE CHICKEN OVERNIGHT IN FLAVORED BUTTERMILK DEFINITELY IMPROVED THE TEXTURE, BUT WHAT CLINCHED THE DEAL WAS DOUBLE-DIPPING THE PIECES IN SPICED FLOUR.  YOU CAN CHANGE THE SPICE MIX DEPENDING ON YOUR PERSONAL TASTE, BUT THIS TECHNIQUE RESULTED IN A CRUNCHY BUT NOT OVERWHELMING CRUST AND KEPT THE MEAT (THIGHS, LEGS, AND WINGS) JUICY.  BARELY A PIECE REMAINED.

 8 THIGHS, LEGS, AND WINGS (24 PIECES TOTAL)
 1 qt BUTTERMILK
 2 BAY LEAVES
 2 SHALLOTS
 4 GARLIC CLOVES
 2 tbsp TABASCO OR ANY HOT SAUCE
 1 tsp DRY MUSTARD POWDER
 1 tbsp HONEY
 4 cups FLOUR
 1 tsp CAYENNE PEPPER
 1 tsp CHILE POWDER
 CORN, GRAPESEED OR VEGETABLE OIL FOR FRYING

1

PEEL AND THINLY SLICE THE SHALLOTS. PEEL AND MINCE THE GARLIC. MIX WITH ALL THE INGREDIENTS UP TO THE FLOUR IN WITH THE BUTTERMILK.

IMMERSE THE CHICKEN PIECES IN THE BUTTERMILK. MARINATE OVERNIGHT.

BLEND THE SEASONINGS PLUS 3 TBSPS OF SALT WITH THE FLOUR IN A PAPER BAG.

REMOVE A FEW PIECES OF CHICKEN AT A TIME FROM THE BUTTERMILK AND SHAKE IN THE PAPER BAG.

ARRANGE ON A WIRE RACK SET IN A RIMMED BAKING SHEET. ALLOW TO SIT FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES BEFORE FRYING.

HEAT THE OIL IN A DUTCH OVEN OR DEEP-SIDED FRYING PAN UNTIL IT REACHES A TEMPERATURE OF 350º.

SHAKE THE CHICKEN PIECES A FEW AT A TIME IN THE BAG WITH THE SPICED FLOUR AND IMMERSE IN THE HOT OIL. COVER AND COOK FOR 2 MINUTES. REDUCE THE HEAT TO MEDIUM-LOW AND FRY 4 MORE MINUTES.

UNCOVER. FLIP THE PIECES OVER AND COOK AN ADDITIONAL 6 MINUTES FOR THE THIGHS. THE LEGS WILL TAKE A COUPLE OF MINUTES LESS. THE WINGS AROUND 3 MINUTES.

TEST FOR DONENESS MY INSERTING A SHARP FORK IN THE THICKEST PART OF THE THIGH. IF THE JUICES RUN CLEAR, IT'S DONE.

REMOVE PIECES TO A WIRE RACK SET OVER SEVERAL LAYERS OF PAPER TOWELS IN A BAKING SHEET.

KEEP WARM IN A 200º OVEN OR SERVE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE.

SERVES 8

Ingredients

 8 THIGHS, LEGS, AND WINGS (24 PIECES TOTAL)
 1 qt BUTTERMILK
 2 BAY LEAVES
 2 SHALLOTS
 4 GARLIC CLOVES
 2 tbsp TABASCO OR ANY HOT SAUCE
 1 tsp DRY MUSTARD POWDER
 1 tbsp HONEY
 4 cups FLOUR
 1 tsp CAYENNE PEPPER
 1 tsp CHILE POWDER
 CORN, GRAPESEED OR VEGETABLE OIL FOR FRYING

Directions

1

PEEL AND THINLY SLICE THE SHALLOTS. PEEL AND MINCE THE GARLIC. MIX WITH ALL THE INGREDIENTS UP TO THE FLOUR IN WITH THE BUTTERMILK.

IMMERSE THE CHICKEN PIECES IN THE BUTTERMILK. MARINATE OVERNIGHT.

BLEND THE SEASONINGS PLUS 3 TBSPS OF SALT WITH THE FLOUR IN A PAPER BAG.

REMOVE A FEW PIECES OF CHICKEN AT A TIME FROM THE BUTTERMILK AND SHAKE IN THE PAPER BAG.

ARRANGE ON A WIRE RACK SET IN A RIMMED BAKING SHEET. ALLOW TO SIT FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES BEFORE FRYING.

HEAT THE OIL IN A DUTCH OVEN OR DEEP-SIDED FRYING PAN UNTIL IT REACHES A TEMPERATURE OF 350º.

SHAKE THE CHICKEN PIECES A FEW AT A TIME IN THE BAG WITH THE SPICED FLOUR AND IMMERSE IN THE HOT OIL. COVER AND COOK FOR 2 MINUTES. REDUCE THE HEAT TO MEDIUM-LOW AND FRY 4 MORE MINUTES.

UNCOVER. FLIP THE PIECES OVER AND COOK AN ADDITIONAL 6 MINUTES FOR THE THIGHS. THE LEGS WILL TAKE A COUPLE OF MINUTES LESS. THE WINGS AROUND 3 MINUTES.

TEST FOR DONENESS MY INSERTING A SHARP FORK IN THE THICKEST PART OF THE THIGH. IF THE JUICES RUN CLEAR, IT'S DONE.

REMOVE PIECES TO A WIRE RACK SET OVER SEVERAL LAYERS OF PAPER TOWELS IN A BAKING SHEET.

KEEP WARM IN A 200º OVEN OR SERVE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE.

SERVES 8

MELISSA’S FRIED CHICKEN
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