Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken
- TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN plus overnight marinating
- SERVINGS: 8
To make this juicy and delectably crisp chicken, chef Thomas Keller soaks it in a lemony brine, then coats and fries it. The chicken, which is served every other Monday at Ad Hoc, is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant. "Since Fried Chicken Night only happens twice a month," Keller says, "people have a wonderful sense of anticipation."
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
- 12 bay leaves
- 1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 3 large rosemary sprigs
- 1 small bunch of thyme
- 1 small bunch of parsley
- Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
- Two 3-pound chickens
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 cups buttermilk
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish
- In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they're completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
- In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330°. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160°, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.
Alexis Swanson Triana pours a Merlot with fried chicken, as fried foods tend to work best with a full-bodied, somewhat tannic wine that can cut through the richness of the fried skin or breading.