Buttermilk Fried Chicken

PUBLISHED ON: 07.11.2010

I am a Thomas Keller fan.  Although, his recipes can involve a number of steps and are considered time consuming, which are the two things that I avoid most in cooking, I always seem to make an exception for a Thomas Keller recipe.

Last Sunday, was the 4th of July and lucky for us, it was also our Sunday Supper gathering. This was a perfect time to serve up a great American tradition that has not graced our family table in a long time.

Thomas Keller brines his chicken for 12 hours in a herb-lemon brine which seasons the meat and helps it stay juicy. I would never have thought to brine chicken before frying.  Now, I could not imagine not doing it.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Serves 4-6
Recipe from Thomas Keller

Chicken Brine:
5 lemons, halved
24 bay leaves
1 bunch (4 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
1/2 cup clover honey
1 head garlic, halved through the equator
1/4 cup peppercorns
2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt
2 gallons water
Note: the key ingredient here is the lemon, which goes wonderfully with chicken, as do the herbs: bay leaf, parsley, and thyme.  This amount of brine will be enough for 10 pounds.

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover and bring to 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.

For Dredging and Frying:
Peanut or canola oil
1 quart buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Ground fleur de sel or fne sea salt
Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish
Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings.  Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add in the chicken, and refrigerate for 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 temperature for 
1-1/12 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
If you have two large pots (about 6 inches deep) and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark meat and 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 peanut oil and heat to 320 degrees 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.
Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into a second bowl of coating.  Transfer to the parchment lined-lined pan.
Carefully lower the highs into the hot oil.  Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature.  Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the pieces around in the oil and continue to fry monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through 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.  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 thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with fine se salt.
Turn the heat and heat he oil to 340 degrees F.  Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings.  Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, 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.
Arrange the chicken on a serving platter.  Add the herb sprigs to the oil (which will still be hot) and them cook and crisp for a few seconds, then arrange them over the chicken.
Note: This may be the best fried chicken that you have ever tasted. However, cooking the chicken pieces  throughly was a bit of a challenge for me. Thomas Keller suggests purchasing chicken from a farmers market to get small chicken as they are easier to cook properly. I will be making this fried chicken many more times and honing my skills at perfecting it.

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