At Chicago's newly redesigned Atwood restaurant, chef Brian Millman is serving fried chicken with a secret: Its exceptional deliciousness comes from a different bird altogether. His inspiration came from a meal he had on vacation in 2008, when he and his wife visited a place called the Dirty Duck Diner in Bali. “We ordered the crispy duck and after one bite my wife and I were in awe of the flavor and the tenderness. The skin was intensely crispy but the meat was still juicy and full of flavor.” He asked how the dish was made, and learned that it had been both poached and deep-fried in duck fat.
At Atwood, Millman pays homage to the Dirty Duck’s crispy duck with chicken thighs. “First, we salt the chicken thighs for about a half hour—a secret I learned in Malaysia,” he says. Then he rinses the chicken, pats it dry and poaches the thighs in duck fat at 170 degrees—just until they are cooked through. “Poaching the chicken at a low temperature helps keep them juicy while not rendering the skin too much,” he says. After that, he marinates the chicken in a buttermilk mixture for at least a day, then tosses it in seasoned flour and fries it in duck fat at 350 degrees. “That allows us to get a really crispy coating while keeping the meat tender and juicy,” he says. The chicken is finished with a drizzle of Sriracha honey and flake salt. Not only does cooking the chicken in duck fat make for super-tender meat and ultra-crispy skin, it also imparts a sort of chicken-duck hybrid flavor. “It’s chicken with a real ducky flavor,” Millman says.