Monday, November 17, 2014

Did Someone Say Fried Chicken?

Just a quick one today, to share a new recipe I am awfully proud of...


My sister and brother-in-love had a very cool party this past weekend.  An indoor tailgate!  They used the excuse of a Saturday night college football game to invite over all their best pals for a tailgate themed potluck party.  Plenty of snacks, plenty of beer and cocktail fixin's, and everyone got to bring their best dish.

I was on deck for fried chicken drumsticks.  I love great fried chicken.  I actually don't mind mediocre fried chicken, to be honest, but I try not to eat fried chicken too often, so if I can avoid fair to middlin' and stick with great, that is always a good thing.

I especially love a big pile of fried chicken drumsticks on a buffet for a crowd.  They are a perfect one-hand food, so you can eat them while standing or milling about.  They are a small enough piece that you don't overly fill up on them, but still have enough meat on them that they are more than just a delivery service for fried skin and breading.  (I'm looking at you, wings.  Delicious though you are)
I also have a very specific idea of what make for great fried chicken.

1.  The meat has to be both juicy and well-flavored, the seasoning has to have penetrated.  Juicy and bland isn't going to cut it, and dried out is simply unacceptable.

2.  The outside has to be extra shatteringly crunchy, with enough seasoning in the coating to provide oomph.

3.  The breading cannot just all fall off when you bite into the chicken the first time.  Defeats the whole purpose.

Now, my Charming Suitor is from Kentucky, so he knows him some quality fried chicken.  The bar isn't just high, its off the charts.  No pressure for the Yankee wife at all.

Here is my official, don't need to change a thing, perfection on a stick, fried chicken.  The recipe is designed for 24 drumsticks or a combo of drumsticks and thighs.  That is because dark meat is just better.  Stays moister, perfect size, better flavor.  It isn't that you can't use this recipe for white meat, but you will need to adjust the cooking times, wings will cook much faster, breasts a little longer.  I know you think 24 pieces of chicken sounds like a lot, but this is fried chicken for a party.  If you are having a sit down dinner party, you can serve 8-12 amply with this, but for a potluck or holiday buffet, you can cover up to 24 people.  And frankly, there are worse things than leftover fried chicken.  And if you love it, I hope you will check out my other recipes in the new digital cookbook, Big Delicious Life!  Only $3.79 for over 150 recipes, 40 never before published, and the first chapter of my next novel!  BUY HERE.

I'm just saying.

Fried Chicken Drumsticks
Serves up to 24 as part of a buffet, or 8-12 as a main course

24 chicken drumsticks (or a mix of drumsticks and thighs)

Spice Rub
2 t dried thyme
2 t dried marjoram
4 t onion powder
4 t garlic powder
3 t espelette pepper (can substitute Aleppo or Cayenne)
6 T salt
2 T freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Buttermilk Brine

2 quarts buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hotsauce (Tabasco, Sriracha, whatever you have on hand)

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry spices. Add chicken and toss until well coated.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.  Mix the hotsauce and honey together until combined, and then blend into the buttermilk.  Pour the buttermilk brine over the chicken to cover completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours.

To prep the chicken for frying:

Pour chicken legs into colander and allow buttermilk to drain.  With paper towels, pat each of the legs completely dry, and arrange in a single layer on more paper towels on a large sheet pan.  Place in the fridge uncovered for 1-3 hours.  This step will dry the skin out and tighten it a bit, trust me, worth the extra step and time.  

4 ½  cups all-purpose flour
4 ½  tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons fine sea salt
3 teaspoons espelette pepper (can substitute Aleppo or Cayenne)
3 tablespoons baking powder

1 quart buttermilk

4 quarts peanut oil

Combine the flour, black pepper, paprika, sea salt, cayenne, and baking powder in a large rectangular pan (I often use deep disposable foil pans) or a wide bowl. Whisk to combine well, and make sure the flour is well seasoned.

Pour the buttermilk into a separate pan or bowl. Set a rack over a baking sheet. Dredge the dried chicken pieces in the flour, shake off the excess, and set them on the rack. Do all of the pieces to this stage.  Then dip each of the pieces in the buttermilk, hold briefly to drain excess, then toss them in the seasoned flour until well coated and return them to the rack.  They should look a little shaggy.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan for deep-frying to 350°F. Add as many chicken pieces as you can without crowding the pan, you may have to do this in 3-4 batches depending on the size of your pot. Cook the chicken, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes depending on their size. After 9 minutes remove one piece and check for doneness with an instant read meat thermometer, they should be 165-175.  Remove to a sheet pan covered with paper towels that you have first crumpled up and then pulled back flat.  While they are resting, let the temp of the oil come back up to 350 and then add the next round of chicken pieces.  When the pieces on the paper towel have drained, place them on a clean rack over a baking tray and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving.   If not serving right away, hold in a 200-degree oven on the rack for up to 30 minutes.

These are delicious hot, warm, or at room temp.  And if you have leftovers, cold right from the fridge for breakfast.  If you have to transport them, slide the tray with the rack into a paper grocery bag, and cut a large opening on the top to let out steam, and then cut the bottom 6 inches off another paper grocery bag and slide it over the second end.  You do not want them to be covered, steam will make them soggy. 

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