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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lemon Brined Fried Chicken

Let me start by acknowledging that I'm a Hoosier.  Born and bred and lived all my life in Indiana.  A state where fried chicken is King.  Well, maybe the fried pork tenderloin sandwich is King and fried chicken is the prince.  At any rate, Hoosiers love their fried food.  And, I admit that I love fried chicken.  Nowadays, I rarely eat it because it's just so wicked.  But, back in the day when I lived in the condo next to Kathy and Lowell and she made the world's best fried chicken, it was a regular treat.  She'd fill the whole sink with chicken then fry it in batches in a special fryer.  We'd all stand around the kitchen drinking beer and waiting for our turn at the crunchy, crispy goodness.  Alas, Kathy and Lowell moved as did I.  And, we lost track of each other.  Isn't that the way life is?  You don't mean to lose track of folks you really like, but you do.  That's one of the things I like best about Facebook.  I've been able to reconnect with a lot of friends from, ahem, a couple of years ago.  There are several in my friend list who I went to kindergarten with.  How much fun is that?

Back to fried chicken.  Time for the confession.  Until last week I'd never made fried chicken.  I know.  A Hoosier and I'd never made the stuff. 

While hunting for recipes to highlight Food and Wine, I saw Thomas Keller's recipe for fried chicken.  When out in California, I've driven by The French Laundry but have never been fortunate enough to eat there.  Nor do I own his cookbook.  (I wish I did after trying this recipe!!!)  But, over the years I've read many articles raving about his cooking.  Maybe it was time to try frying chicken.  I was pretty certain I'd never be able to match Kathy's perfect chicken.  But, this recipe looked so good I had to try.  

The night before FC day, I dutifully brined the chicken.  As you'll note, the recipe calls for fresh rosemary, parsley and thyme.  It was dark out.  There are no lights in our herb garden.  So, there I was, flashlight in hand, wandering the herb garden with my scissors attempting to gather the requisite ingredients.  The rabbits have had a heyday with our parsley so that was a bit lacking.  We won't even go in to what the neighbors must think about the nutty woman running around with scissors and a flashlight...  Finally, everything was gathered together for the brining.  

On FC day, my intent was to leave the office early enough to actually have dinner on the table before dark.  It wasn't to be.  In fact, last week was such a bear that my desk looks like a paper truck exploded on it.  

It'll not get cleaned up this weekend since I have so many gnarly appointments scheduled next week...  Look at that mess.  At least I have a great view!!!

Even though I got home pretty late, I knew I needed to go ahead and fry the chicken.  Brining for extra time is not a great idea.  It's the same deal with marinating.  The meat just breaks down too much.  Time to bring out Grammy's old cast iron skillet and fry away!!  The process turned out to be easier than I expected.  I had to learn how hot the oil should be and found the recipe's timing was too little for done chicken.  Instead of 10 minutes per side, this needed 15. 

End result?  Fabulous, fantastic, wish it wasn't so wicked so we could eat this several times a year.  Connie's not fond of the white meat because it's so dry - usually.  This wasn't at all.  In fact, we just had the leftovers chopped onto our lunch salads.  It's absolutely worth the extra step of the brining.  We ate chicken hot the first evening and cold for lunch the next day.  I was amazed how crunchy the skin stayed.  It was just as good the second day.  Now, I have just enough of the white meat left for two more lunch salads...

Lemon Brined Fried Chicken

for the brine:
1 gallon cold water
1 cup plus 2 t kosher salt
1/4 c plus 2 T honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 T black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch parsley
finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons, plus the lemon halves

two - 3 pound chickens (we halved the recipe so I used two breasts and five thighs)

for the coating:
3 cups flour
2 T garlic powder
2 T onion powder
2 t cayenne pepper

2 c buttermilk

vegetable oil


The night before fry time, you'll need to prepare the brine.  In a large saucepan, combine a quart of the water with the rest of the brining ingredients.  Heat over medium heat, stirring until the salt dissolves.  Pour everything into a large storage container and add the rest of the cold water. 

Put the chicken into the brine.  Make sure it is completely covered.  Refrigerate overnight. 

To fry the chicken, remove it from the brine and pat it dry.  Pour the oil into a large, deep skillet.  You'll want oil an inch deep.  Heat the oil to 330 degrees.  While the oil is heating, prepare the chicken.  Mix the coating mixture

and put it in a shallow bowl. 

Cover a baking sheet with waxed paper. 

Dip the chicken into the buttermilk

then into the coating mixture.  Pat the coating mixture onto the chicken to make sure it's well covered.  Put the chicken pieces on the baking sheet.  Working in batches, fry the chicken. 

Do NOT crowd the chicken in the skillet.  The original recipe said it'd take about 10 minutes a side.  I found it took about 15 minutes.  Turn the chicken once during frying.  The internal temperature of the chicken should be at least 160 degrees.  Remove the chicken from the frying pan and drain on paper towels. 


Adapted from Food and Wine.  Originally published in October, 2007.

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This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD and WINE archive. As a FOOD and WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD and WINE. I received a subscription to FOOD and WINE for my participation.


Cooking Gallery said...

Oh yum....!! The fried chickens look so delicious! They remind me of KFC :)!

sara @ CaffeIna said...

You know, frying scares me and among the things to do soon is overcome my fear of failing a fried dish. You are making me want to work on that very soon!

Kate said...

Sara, I couldn't agree more. I was terrified of a grease fire. But, I'm glad I did it because this chicken was fantastic. Trying new things is one of the fun parts of blogging. It's really making me stretch as a cook. Hope the packing is going well!! Kate

Anonymous said...

Oh my word how gorgeous and delicious!! Looks absolutely fantastic!

Isabelle said...

I may not be a Hoosier, but I sure do love me some fried chicken! :) The lemon brine sounds like it really gives it that extra oomph, too.

Anonymous said...

I love your view :) And the brine on the chicken. What a great addition!

Gree said...

It's funny..I have a total obsession with Thomas Keller and have read his brined fried chicken recipe enough that I have it nearly memorized but have never attempted it. Yours looks just as good as his!

Jan/Thella @ I Love. Therefore, I Cook. said...

my idea of fried chicken has always been coat-and-fry. this lemon brine is a welcomed addition to my learning :D will definitely try this one kate

The Mom Chef said...

Oh, if you knew how much I love fried chicken. My mouth is doing some serious wishing at this point. It looks incredible. I'll be trying this recipe for sure!

Anonymous said...

This sounds great! I have never made fried chicken before, it is one of those dishes that my husband keeps requesting. After seeing this awesome recipe, I will have to try this one! Thanks for sharing. :)

Hester Casey said...

Fried chicken is my first restaurant memory and I'd never tasted anything so delicious. It's not a dish done well in Ireland so I haven't had the opportunity to recreate the experience ... until now. That looks amazing.

Lizzy said...

This looks incredible...I hate the mess of making fried chicken, but I think you've convinced me to try again!

Skylar Wolfe said...

Hooray a fellow Hoosier!

The chicken looks great, I love pan fried chicken, it makes my mouth water just reading about it.

Kate said...

Hey Skylar - and another one commenting just above you :-) We head up to Lafayette every once in a while. Even though I'm an IU grad, my best friend owns Hippensteel Funeral Home... I'm going to miss The Pub! Kate