the best fried chicken

My sister and her husband were visiting from Texas this weekend, and while they were here we talked about how lucky my brother-in-law, Ollie, is to have such a great group of friends. Ollie and his brother have a huge group of close male friends they have known for years- since they were in preschool together. I have never been surrounded by a group of friends; instead I tend to choose one or two people as my 'people' and spend lots of time with them. I do have some great old friends- some of whom I've maintained relationships with for 15 years- but there are just a handful of them. If and when I do get married, it will be a very small and intimate affair, rather than a massive party.

But you know what, that's the way I like it. A few times a month, I have a friend or two over for dinner- we call it 'supper club'. It's very spontaneous- if I feel like cooking, I send out a text in the morning (or sometimes afternoon!) and usually my mom's best friend Rhonda answers the summons and joins us for dinner. Yesterday morning was just one of those times, and I asked Rhonda if she wanted to join us for dinner. The text exchange went like this, verbatim:

A: When can you come over for dinner this week?

R: Hi! Any evening but Tuesday, really.

A: Tonight?

R: Sure!

A: How about 6:00?

R: Perfect! What may I bring?

A: Let me come up with the menu and I'll let you know

Part of the fun of 'supper club' is that I usually make something I've never made before and hope for the best. So far we haven't had a flop- I'm sure it will happen eventually! In order to be on the (very exclusive) invite list, you have to be willing to try whatever it is I plan on making, and more than likely you wouldn't know what it was until I put it on the table in front of you. In the past few months, we've had everything from mushroom burgers to curried chicken salad sandwiches to last night's fried chicken. Of course, I always make dessert too- that's when things get really fun!

I've never made fried chicken at home, before yesterday that is. It is something I have always wanted to try, but with the fryer being such a hassle, I just haven't gotten around to it. For whatever reason, I decided to go for it, and I found a great recipe to try. Let me tell you: this is the best fried chicken I have ever had, bar none. Being a connoisseur of all things fried, especially fried chicken, this is saying a lot. The chicken was moist and tender, cooked perfectly with tons of flavor, and the crust was crisp, spicy, and light- not greasy.

If not for the damage to my waistline, I would want to eat this every. single. day. It takes some extra time, as all the best things tend to do, but it is absolutely worth the effort. This recipe is not challenging at all, but it could be more difficult if you don't happen to have a professional-grade deep fryer laying around. The next best thing would be a large cast iron pot or dutch oven and a very good thermometer.

So, here's how it's done. There are a few special items you will need- a meat injector (I bought one at the grocery store for three dollars), a food processor, and ideally a deep fryer or dutch oven.

First, you're going to mix up what could euphemistically be called a 'marinade' but is just a big ol' vat of flavor-juice.

In your food processor, puree onion, garlic, and hot sauce, while you're melting 1 c butter in the microwave. Strain the hot sauce puree and add the butter to it, mixing well to combine.

In your food processor, puree onion, garlic, and hot sauce, while you're melting 1 c butter in the microwave. Strain the hot sauce puree and add the butter to it, mixing well to combine.

This smells delicious. And also kind of gross. It's a fine line.

This smells delicious. And also kind of gross. It's a fine line.

Now, this is the only part that may be challenging if you're a bit squeamish. I am not squeamish and it was a bit tough for me, but I got over it. Have a 9x13 baking dish ready, and salt and pepper each piece of chicken THOROUGHLY. I like to have a ramekin of salt and pepper already mixed together, for less risk of contamination and fewer steps.

Okay...this is a little tough. But it's totally worth it! Also, I am all for latex glove use in the home kitchen. Have a box around- use them whenever you are handling something raw or icky. You can thank me later.

Okay...this is a little tough. But it's totally worth it! Also, I am all for latex glove use in the home kitchen. Have a box around- use them whenever you are handling something raw or icky. You can thank me later.

After seasoning the piece you are holding, use the meat injector to inject each piece of chicken in two places with the marinade. I used about two teaspoons per injection, and only two injections per piece. Find the meatiest parts and use those areas.

Once each piece has been seasoned and injected, pour the buttermilk on top, making sure each piece is thoroughly coated.

Now just cover up your little bird and put it in the fridge for at least three hours and up to overnight. Naturally, the longer the better! I ended up leaving mine for about five hours and it was deeee-e-licious.

Whenever I bread something to fry, I season the flour LIBERALLY. You can see my seasoning mix in the recipe below, but feel free to up the heat by adding more cayenne if you like your chicken a little spicy.

Whenever I bread something to fry, I season the flour LIBERALLY. You can see my seasoning mix in the recipe below, but feel free to up the heat by adding more cayenne if you like your chicken a little spicy.

When you're ready to fry, you can whisk up your seasoned flour mixture. The cornstarch in the flour gives the chicken a really crispy exterior and will also keep it from absorbing too much grease. Set up your frying station and have absolutely everything ready before you even take the chicken out of the fridge.

I highly recommend frying outside if possible- otherwise the oil will get errrrrrywhere. Splatter screens work well if you need to fry inside. Have a sheet pan lined with a few layers of paper towels, tongs, and get your oil heating up. Sun tea optional but recommended.

I highly recommend frying outside if possible- otherwise the oil will get errrrrrywhere. Splatter screens work well if you need to fry inside. Have a sheet pan lined with a few layers of paper towels, tongs, and get your oil heating up. Sun tea optional but recommended.

I don't have any pictures of the actual breading process, but I promise it happened and is very easy. But messy. Gloves are good. Just slide each piece into the flour before you are about to fry it, toss gently to coat, and shake off any excess before you put it in the oil. Wait until riiight before you're going to fry each piece to keep the coating from getting thick and gummy.

Let the chicken come up closer to room temperature before you fry it, to avoid dropping the oil temp too significantly when you drop it in. Get your hand as close to the surface of the oil as possible to slip the chicken in without burning yourself, to keep the oil from splashing back at you.

Fry each piece for 10 minutes, ensuring that the oil is at 330 before you drop any pieces in and also not crowding the pan. It took me about 35 minutes to get all of my chicken fried, two pieces at a time.

It should be nice and golden brown all over.

It should be nice and golden brown all over.

I just let the chicken rest after frying- I did not put them in the oven while the rest was frying. This resulted in perfect temperature chicken that was well rested and juicy when we ate it!

I just let the chicken rest after frying- I did not put them in the oven while the rest was frying. This resulted in perfect temperature chicken that was well rested and juicy when we ate it!

So what are you waiting for? Time to get cracking!

Recipe:

Inspired by my favorite cookbook Cooking My Way Back Home, with minor changes

This quantity serves 4. You could easily double it to serve 6-8.

1 cup salted butter, melted

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1/4 c jalapeno hot sauce (I used 'Pain is Good' brand but I'm sure Tabasco Jalapeno would be great too)

 

1 chicken, broken down (about 3#) 

Salt and pepper -I used about a tablespoon of each, combined in a ramekin

3 c buttermilk (you just need enough to cover the chicken)

Peanut oil, for frying

1 c flour

1/4 c cornstarch

1 T Old Bay seasoning

1 t salt

1/4 t each of: ground cumin, dried thyme, ground coriander, cayenne pepper

1/2-3/4 t each of: ground mustard, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder

1 t each of: white pepper, black pepper, dried oregano

 

Combine the garlic, onion, and hot sauce in a food processor until smooth. Use a very fine mesh strainer to push the liquid into a medium bowl, leaving behind a garlic-onion paste. Combine the melted butter with the hot sauce mixture, stirring well. 

Prepare your meat injector and have all the items ready to go: a large baking dish, the chicken pieces, the salt and pepper, and the buttermilk. 

Going one piece at a time, season the chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper, then inject each piece with about two teaspoons of the hot sauce/butter mixture in two locations. Find the meatiest parts to inject.

Place each piece in the baking dish as you go, and once all pieces are seasoned and injected, pour the buttermilk over the top. Make sure each piece is covered, then cover the dish tightly and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least three hours but up to overnight. Longer is better!

When you're ready to fry, whisk together the flour and seasonings in a medium bowl. Heat your oil to 330 to a depth of at least three inches. 

Toss the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, then cook in batches for ten minutes each. Don't crowd the pan and keep track of the oil temperature- make sure you let it come back up to temp between each batch. Remove from the oil, letting the oil drip for a few seconds, then place onto paper-towel lined tray.

Enjoy!

Meal suggestions:

fried chicken & braised greens & coleslaw or creamed corn & raspberry lemonade

Strawberry ice cream for dessert with a simple summer cobbler