This recipe delivers a cracking, splintering crust, a mix of spices that tickle the edge of the mouth, and succulent meat that’s flavorful through and through. It finishes big, with nods to the traditions of Buffalo wings, Nashville hot chicken, and Korean-style fried chicken, by way of a finger-licking, lip-smacking chile butter that coats and catches on the crust, providing an extra hit of heat and sweetness. I’m mad for it, most ideally alongside a crisp green salad (page 185).
While it takes some time, the method for fried chicken isn’t burdensome. It is particular, though. There’s a dry rub first, then careful dredging and cooking. Mixing flour and cornstarch contributes to the crunch, while using diluted buttermilk slows the browning of the crust, to allow the meat the time it needs to cook, and baking powder helps keep the coating light. There is a glee in the making, and unmitigated joy in the eating. Batter up.
MAKES 10 Pieces
1 tablespoon medium-grain kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 fryer chicken, about
3 pounds (1.4 kg), cut into 10 pieces
1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (60 g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1 teaspoon medium-grain kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups (355 ml) buttermilk, well shaken (page 258)
₁⁄₃ cup (80 ml) water
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
4 cups (1 L) oil, for deepfrying (peanut works best, but vegetable is good)
HOT HONEY BUTTER
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
½ clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean ground red pepper powder), cayenne, or crushed red pepper flakes
To make the chicken, with a mortar and pestle, combine the salt, pepper, paprika, sugar, thyme, and bay leaves. Bruise the herbs into the spices, then mix around a bit. In a large bowl, season the chicken with the spiced salt. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight.
About 1 hour before you want to begin frying, remove the chicken from the fridge. Set a rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
To make the coating, in a wide, shallow dish, stir together the flour, cornstarch, paprika, salt, and pepper. In a bowl, whisk the buttermilk, water, and baking powder together. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves from the chicken.
Using tongs, or one hand for the wet work and one hand for dry, lightly dredge a piece of chicken in the seasoned flour, then dunk in the buttermilk mixture, letting any surplus drip away. Place the piece on the prepared rack, and continue until all pieces have been dipped. Starting with the first piece, coat the chicken again in the seasoned flour. Press and wiggle the chicken around in the dish, then shake off the excess dry mix. The aim is to build up a thin, wrinkled coating. Return the piece to the wire rack and do the same with the rest of the chicken. You can repeat the process and go for a double dip, but it makes for trickier frying (see Note).
Line a large plate with a few layers of paper towels. Preheat an oven to 200°F (100°C). Set another wire rack over a sheet pan and place in the warm oven. In an 8-quart (8 L) Dutch oven with a 12-inch (30.5 cm) diameter, bring the oil to 350°F (175°C) over medium heat. (Or use a deep fryer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)
While the oil heats, make the honey butter. In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the butter and honey, swirling to combine. Stir in the gochujang, garlic, and gochugaru. Set aside.
Starting with the legs and thighs, lower half the chicken pieces into the oil, skin side down. Cover and fry for 2 minutes. Open the lid and check for even browning, moving any pieces if needed. Fry for 4 minutes more, uncovered. Turn the chicken pieces over and cook, still uncovered, until the pieces are equally golden on the second side, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to the paper-lined plate, rolling the pieces on all sides against the paper to remove any oil. Let stand while you bring the oil back to temperature. Transfer the cooked chicken to the sheet pan in the warm oven and line the plate with clean paper towels. Fry the remaining chicken, drain, and transfer to the oven rack. Leave the chicken in the oven for 10 minutes, after which the chicken should be around 180°F (80°C) at the thickest part of the dark meat. Either toss the chicken with the hot honey butter or drizzle it over the chicken, then have at it.
NOTE: In terms of double dipping and dredging, more coating sounds like a good idea, but unfortunately,that’s not always the case. A thicker crust makes more solid barrier between the chicken and the heat. That increased distance and the coating’s ability to trap steam adds risk; though the exterior looks golden, you might find flabby skin beneath a wet underside of crust and pink spots at the bones. If you choose to double up, keep the layers light, and be sure to check the meat with a thermometer to confirm proper cooking.
While cooking, adjust the heat as needed to maintain the oil temperature around 335°F (170°C)—the initial oil temperature of 350°F (175°C) is to compensate for
how much heat will be lost once the chicken hits the fat.
Excerpted from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady. Copyright © 2015 by Tara O’Brady. Excerpted by permission of Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.