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Tea-Brined and Double-Fried Hot Chicken
© Chris Court

Tea-Brined and Double-Fried Hot Chicken

  • TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN plus 24 hr brining
  • SERVINGS: 4
  • STAFF-FAVORITE

Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger make their brine with sweet tea and thyme, a recipe inspired by chef Joseph Lenn of Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm; the brine gives the chicken a delicate, sweet flavor. After frying the chicken until it’s extra-crispy, they toss it in a sweet-and-spicy sauce of molasses and gochujang (Korean chile paste).

Slideshow: Fried Chicken

  1. 8 cups sweet tea
  2. 1/2 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  3. 10 thyme sprigs
  4. 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 3 cloves
  5. 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
  6. 4 chicken drumsticks
  7. 4 chicken thighs
  8. 3 tablespoons gochujang (see Note)
  9. 3 tablespoons sorghum molasses
  10. 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  11. 1/2 cup lard or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  12. Canola oil, for frying
  13. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  14. 1/2 cup Wondra flour
  15. 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  16. About 1 cup seltzer
  1. In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of the sweet tea just to a boil. Add the 1/2 cup of kosher salt and stir until dissolved. Add the thyme, halved garlic head, lemon slices and the remaining 4 cups of sweet tea and let cool completely, then refrigerate until well chilled, about 45 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken to the brine, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 48 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the 3 garlic cloves with the gochujang, molasses and cayenne and puree until a paste forms. Add the lard and puree until smooth. Season with salt. Scrape the chile mixture into a very large bowl.
  5. In a large saucepan, heat 3 inches of oil to 350°. Set a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread 1 cup of the all-purpose flour in a pie plate. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour with the Wondra flour, cornstarch and a generous pinch of salt. Whisk in 3/4 cup of seltzer until a thick batter forms, adding more seltzer if needed.
  6. Dredge 4 of the chicken pieces in the flour, tap off the excess and transfer to the rack. Dip 1 piece of chicken at a time in the batter, let the excess drip back into the bowl and add the chicken to the hot oil. Fry the chicken at 350°, turning occasionally, until pale golden and crisp, about 8 minutes; transfer the chicken to the rack. Repeat with the remaining 4 pieces of chicken.
  7. Return the first 4 pieces of chicken to the hot oil and fry at 350° until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165°, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Repeat with the remaining 4 pieces of chicken. Add the 8 pieces to the very large bowl with the chile mixture and toss to coat. Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve right away.
Notes Gochujang is available at Asian markets.

Suggested Pairing

Ripe peach-scented German Riesling with a touch of sweetness.

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