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I have had many failures in the kitchen.  It seems like every time I cook there is some type of mishap.  But it rarely ruins a meal.  I have learned not to give up if it isn’t going exactly as I planned and sometimes the “mistake” leads to a culinary discovery.

Well, today was no different in my pattern of kitchen mishaps.  I wanted to make good ol’ southern fried chicken for the guys coming over to watch football.  It all started out great and I was frying away when I started seeing flames coming out from under the pan.  And they got big fast.  But thanks to grade school fire safety lessons, I stayed calm and said to myself “This is a grease fire.  You need to smother the fire.”  So I did.  And it went out.  But not before the house filled up with smoke and all the fire alarms went off.  Embarrassing.

But I wasn’t defeated.  Opened the doors to air the smoke.  Changed out the oil.  Cleaned up the oil splatters so it wouldn’t happen again.  The meal turned out great.  Mostly because of my favorite cookbook, Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home.  If you aren’t familiar with the book you should definitely check it out.  His recipes are great.  In fact, its almost the only cookbook that I will use a recipe exactly as written.  Don’t question perfection.  The crust on this chicken is very crispy and “feathery” according to Keller.  I definitely agree.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Thomas Keller

  • Two 2 1/2 to 3 pound chickens cut into 10 pieces
  • Chicken brine (see below)
  • Canola or Peanut Oil
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • Salt and 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 group black pepper
    Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings.  Pour the brine into the container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add the chicken and refrigerate for no longer than 12 hours.
    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.  Let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or until it come to room temperature.
    Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of 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 (flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, kosher salt, and pepper).  Transfer half the coating to a second 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 dark meat pieces into the first bowl of coating, then into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip into the second bowl of coating, and rest on the parchment.
    Carefully (more carefully than me) lower the pieces into the hot oil.  Fry for 11 to 12 minutes turning over half-way through, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp.  Allow to drain on a cooling rack, skin side up to let the fat drain off.
    Turn up the heat to 340 degrees F to cook the white meat.  Repeat the coating and frying process for the white meat.  Note that the white meat will cook faster.  Approximately 7 minutes for the breasts and 6 minutes for the wings.
Chicken Brine
  • 5 lemons, halved
  • 24 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1/2 cup clover honey
  • 1 head garlic, halved through the equator
  • 1/4 cup black peppercorns
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt
  • 2 gallons water
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a 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.
Buttermilk Biscuits by Thomas Keller
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    Combine the flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend.  Add the chilled butter and pulse several times, until the pieces of butter are no bigger than small peas.  Do not overprocess; the dough should not come together.
    Transfer the dough to a large bowl and make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Pour in the buttermilk.  Stir and lift the mixture with a sturdy spoon, gently working the flour into the buttermilk.  The dough should begin to come together but not form a solid mass, or the biscuits may be tough.
    Dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough.  Pat the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle.  Using a 2 1/2-inch round cutter, cut out the biscuits.  Place the biscuits on the baking sheet.  The dough trimmings can be gently pushed together, patted out, and cut one more time; do not overwork the dough.
    Brush the tops of the biscuits lightly with buttermilk.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until a rich golden brown.  As soon as you remove the biscuits from the oven, brush the tops with melted butter.  Serve warm.

Makes 12 biscuits.

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