As I was making dinner the other night, PT jokingly suggested that I start Cooking Heavy magazine, the yummier, more diabolical counterpart to Cooking Light magazine.
Shocked, I stood before the vat of scalding oil, ready to drop the battered chicken in, and asked what would have given him such an idea. “Oh nothing,” he smirked, kissed me on the head, and retreated to the living room.
Now, I will admit that I have a slight predilection for cooking foods that contain cheese, butter, cream, chocolate, more butter, crème fraîche (definitely, crème fraîche), and home-frying does send me into a bit of a frenzy. There’s nothing quite like that first hiss and sizzle, as the food hits the near-bubbling oil, that tells you that you’re in for a treat.
On that particular night, I had decided to make my famous (well, famous within an exclusive circle) Fried Chicken. The weather in Boston was starting to make a turn for the better, and I was in the mood for a bit of kitchen pottering – the mindless activity that certain slow-cooking recipes demand in regular increments throughout the day, and which this Fried Chicken recipe fulfills beautifully.
This Fried Chicken is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted, and, as far as I’m concerned, beats any fast food joint by a mile. It’s salty, a little spicy, super-garlicky, and unbelievably crispy. The marinade flavors the meat straight down to the bone and makes it so tender and juicy, it nearly falls off after the first bite.
The one caveat to this meal is that it must be started by noon at the latest, if you intend to have dinner at a reasonable hour, and it more or less chains you to the kitchen. That being said, if you have the time and inclination, this is a fabulously decadent, fun meal to make and serve.
Crispy Garlicky Fried Chicken
3 lbs. Chicken, cut-up, preferably thighs, wings, and legs
3-4 Cups Peanut Oil
For the Marinade
½ Cup Kosher Salt
¼ Cup Sugar
1 Tbls. Garlic Salt
1 Tbls. Chili Powder
1 Tbls. Cayenne*
3 Heads of Garlic, cloves separated and skinned
2 Bay Leaves, Crumbled
2 Quarts Buttermilk
For the batter
3 Cups Flour
1 Tbls. Kosher Salt
1 Tsp. Pepper
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
½ Tsp. Baking Soda
To make the marinade, place the skinned garlic cloves, kosher salt, sugar, garlic salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves in a durable, zip-lock bag. With the flat side of a meat pounder (or anything heavy and flat) pound the mixture, until the garlic cloves are well-smashed into the salt.
Pour the mixture into a large tupperware container (anything non-reactive) and add 7 cups of the buttermilk (reserve the last cup for the batter). Mix well until all of the salt is dissolved.
Submerge the chicken in the mixture, ensuring that all sides are coated well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Place a cookie sheet underneath a large wire cooling rack. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator. Remove the chicken from marinade using tongs and lay on the wire cooling rack. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours or for up to 6.
To make the batter, whisk together the egg, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium-sized nesting bowl. Once mixed, pour the remaining cup of buttermilk into the bowl.
Separately, pour the flour, salt, and pepper into a shallow, wide baking dish and mix well. Drop 2-3 pieces of chicken into the flour mixture. Coat the pieces well by either shaking the dish or using a spoon (or your clean hands) to cover the tops with flour. Using tongs, lift the chicken out of the flour and drop into the egg and buttermilk mixture. Again, coat well. Remove the chicken, allowing the excess liquid to drip off and return to the flour mixture. Again, coat well with the flour mixture, using the same method as before. Once fully coated, return the chicken pieces to the wire rack (with the cookie sheet beneath to catch any drips).
Repeat this process with the remaining chicken. You will want to remove any clumps of batter from the flour mixture and tongs before moving on to the next batch, as they will make coating and moving the chicken messier and more difficult.
Once all the chicken pieces are battered and returned to the wire rack, return the rack to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before frying.
To fry the chicken, you must have a large pot or dutch oven with a diameter of at least 12 inches, a depth of at least 8 inches, and it must have a lid or cover.
Pour the peanut oil to a depth of about 2-2 ½ inches into the pot. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 350-375°.
Place 2-3 of the chicken pieces, skin-side down, into the oil. Cover the pot. Turn the heat down to medium and fry for 6-8 minutes. The skin will become instantly golden and brown, but will not burn with the extra time.
Once the 6-8 minutes are done, using tongs, flip the chicken to the other side for another 6-8 minutes.**
Check the heat of the oil to make sure that it has not fallen below 325°, which is the magic number for ensuring crispy fried chicken.
Once the batch is done frying, remove the chicken to a plate covered in paper towels. Allow the oil temperature to reach 350-375° again before beginning on the next batch. Continue, using the same method, until all of the chicken is fried.
Plate the chicken pieces, sprinkle a little salt on top (or whip up a nice honey mustard sauce), and serve with a big salad or heaping of sides.