a home cook with notions & an appetite
Note, “cook through the ad hoc cookbook” was a goal of mine on a goal-oriented social networking site. So if anyone happening by this thinks I’ve copied her posts, I am her…I just haven’t decided what to do with that account. Although I will be transferring most of the posts regarding cooking to this blog.
That’s right – two recipes in one! Of course, now when I make the chicken brine again, it only counts for the love of cooking. And the fantastic smell. And wonderful taste. So, you know, all those down sides.
Speaking of down sides, the only one with the buttermilk fried chicken recipe (ad hoc goes all lower-case, so I’m following suit), is that you really need to think to yourself, self, I really want fried chicken…in about 2 or 3 days. Between the ingredients you’ll need to buy for the brine (you may or may not have all the chicken stuffs) and the prep for that and the actual brining time, this is no 1-hour affair. The brine is 12 hours (preferred). And, my friends, it is absolutely worth it.
So, the brine.
I know, you’re probably guessing “lemons.” And you’d be right! And if you know your brines, you know that there’s salt and water. I’ve also got a ton of bay leaves, flat-leaf parsley, fresh tarragon, honey, a head of garlic and whole peppercorns in there. It’s boiled (big pot) until the salt is dissolved and completely cooled (it’s a process). The smell? Fantastic. Seriously, he should make a “lemon brine” candle and sell it.
But the fun doesn’t end there – Mr. Keller recommends cutting up your own chicken. A chicken, that shouldn’t be more than 3 pounds, preferably closer to 2 1/2 pounds. I was able to find a just a smidge over 3 pound fryer at the grocery store which was the name brand and more expensive than the store “fryers” that were all running nearly 5 pounds. When did we start making chickens so big? Anyway, this is his size for optimal meat-to-crust proportion. Recommendation if the mega-mart fails? Farmers market (it’s a theme in this book – and one I like to get behind when I’m not pressed for time). So here’s my not-so
-fancy before and after shot – which implies I did this with ease. I really need more practice, but this is my chicken cut up into 10 pieces.
So how hard is brining? Uh, big container, put chicken in, leave for 12 hours in refrigerator, and remove to rinse and dry off.
You’ll notice that the chicken has gone from pink to white-ish. This is part of the brining process. The texture has also started to change. This is all good. My trash? Smelled fantastic. Seriously, Keller needs to get that chicken brine candle going.
Now for the organized part. I can’t stress this enough – organization is key to all of this. I had everything laid out and ready to go, along with some special equipment. I do not leave frying to chance and I used a thermometer the whole time. I also flipped and removed the chicken with a fish spatula – best invention ever. Instructions did call to fry dark pieces first at a lower temperature for a longer time than white meat (slightly higher, shorter time). This was perfect. But it involves lots of paying attention, which means you have little time to be running around and gathering stuff you should have already had – all stations were set up ahead of time. This means dipping stations, waiting station, frying station and draining/resting station.
Seasoned flour was made and eventually split into two bowls (the seasoning was really basic – flour and normal spices). Buttermilk was seasoned with salt and pepper.
Each piece of chicken (which was very dry – not only had it rested for an hour and a half at room temperature on paper towels, but I dried it again just before dipping) was dipped in flour first. It was then dipped in buttermilk. Then it was dipped in flour again.
Onto the wait station. This was really just a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, but this is where the chicken sat while I washed my hands of the coating and made sure that the oil was the right temperature.
Once the oil was to temp, I fried the chicken according to the appropriate time and kept an eye on the thermometer. The initial chicken in oil would drop the temperature, so getting it back up was an art of having the heat high enough to raise the temperature but not so high that when you cranked it back it didn’t respond almost immediately.
My last station was the draining/resting station. A cookie sheet with parchment and a cooling rack. Once I took out finished pieces, this is when I started coating the new pieces of chicken – that way, I wasn’t ever rushed.
You can see the finished product in the photo and know that the organization was worth it (if you have any doubt, know that the fault lies in my photography skills).
The taste? UNREAL. Crispy skin that stayed on the chicken. The meat was unbelievably moist and tasted vaguely of citrus and spices, but not so much that it overpowered the dish. Well worth making.