It’s Labor Day weekend, and we’re gearing up for The Ultimate Unbridled Picnic! All day long we’ll be posting favorite picnic recipes from some of our very favorite authors —and be sure to download our Ultimate Unbridled Picnic Reader. Kick back… and enjoy!
Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken
8 pieces of chicken (I use a mix of breasts and legs and thighs, depending on whose coming to the picnic with me—I do aim to custom please my guests. And the chicken is always organic.)
1 quart buttermilk (I like to avoid the low fat variety. I’m Southern, and tend to believe fat makes everything better.)
1 cup water
1/8 cup kosher salt
1 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (What did we do without this stuff? Used regular hot sauce I suppose.)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
cayenne or hot Hungarian paprika to taste (optional)
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1-2 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups buttermilk
oil for frying (I confess I use only Crisco for frying chicken and okra too, by the way.You need enough to come about 1/3 of the way up the pot or 2 inches)
kosher salt for sprinkling (optional)
For the brine: Combine all the ingredients for the brine in a large mixing bowl combine buttermilk, and thoroughly stir with a whisk to evenly distribute honey. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Divide all pieces of chicken between two large ziplock bags. Pour half of buttermilk brine in each, close, shake, and place in the refrigerator over night, turning occasionally.
1-2 hours before you are ready to fry: Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry. Let the chicken come to room temperature, half an hour to one and a half hours, on a cloth towel or paper towels.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix all of the ingredients for the coating together in a large bowl, transferring half to a second bowl. (The measurements given for seasonings here are approximate. I season my flour to taste. Yes, I taste the raw flour. It should taste salty and flavorful.) Fill a third bowl with the 2 cups of buttermilk. The easiest way to coat the chicken is to have a line set up: uncoated chicken, flour coating, buttermilk, 2nd bowl of flour coating, wax paper lined baking sheet for the coated chicken.
Pour the oil into your pot (preferably an old fashional cast iron skillet on the cast iron enamel variety like Le Crueset). It should come at least two inches and no more than 1/3 of the way up the side of the pot. Turn the heat to low. (Some use a frying/candy thermometer clipped to the side of the pot. But if you’ve fried chicken all your life, you will sense when the oil is hot and ready for frying.)
Dredge each piece in the coating, dust off all excess, dip into the buttermilk, and then into the second bowl of coating, letting the 2nd coating be clumpier but still patting to get rid of excess that might fall off in the oil. Place coated chicken on the wax paper lined tray.
Turn the oil up to high and let it come to about 350° F. Let the coated chicken sit so that the coating will thicken while the oil gets hot. When it reaches temperature, very carefully place 4 pieces of chicken one at a time in the hot oil and fry, adjusting the temperature as needed to maintain a frying temperature between 310° -325° F. Try to keep it around 320°. You start the oil at 350° because when you add the chicken to the hot oil, the temperature will drop. Fry dark meat first, as it takes longer. Fry the chicken for about 13-20 minutes, moving the chicken gently—you don’t want to knock the coating off—after the first five minutes to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom. Be careful to monitor your chicken, watching the oil temperature closely and not letting the chicken get too dark.
Remove chicken from the oil with a spatular or slotted metal spoon when it is golden brown (metal tongs will knock off your precious coating), and place it on a cooling rack over a paper towel lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.(optional) Check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. Fully cooked chicken will read 160 degrees and can be served then if desired. If it is lower than that, it must be finished in the oven. Fry the second batch and then place it on the rack. Place the rack in the oven for ten minutes. Check the internal temperature to make sure the chicken is cooked through, let rest 10 minutes, and serve hot. If all the chicken is cooked through and you want to keep it hot, you can hold it in a 250 degree oven.
Jane Bradley is the author of You Believers.
Visit Jane Bradley’s website.