If you can't make it to Thomas Keller’s casual restaurant, you should at least make this game day-friendly, chicken finger version of one of Ad Hoc’s signature dishes.


During the Super Bowl on Sunday, Ad Hoc's Katie Hagan-Whelchel will be rooting for a certain Seahawks running back. She kind of owes him. Hagan-Whelchel won the Ad Hoc fantasy football league this year, and as she says, “It was all thanks to my boy Marshawn Lynch.” Clearly, she drafted well.

She’ll be cheering from the kitchen at Ad Hoc, where Thomas Keller’s casual Yountville restaurant will go all-out for an epic Super Bowl party for the first time. They're bringing in two 55-inch TVs and repurposing the restaurant's chalkboards, which traditionally carry the always-changing menu, to facilitate some friendly gambling. Every guest will be able to play Super Bowl squares (a simple and random betting system employed by offices and bars all over the country).

Hagan-Whelchel will be serving an epic meal that includes barbecue pulled pork poutine and Ad Hoc’s famous buttermilk fried chicken, although she may only be cooking through the second quarter. “Once the halftime show starts, you better believe I’m going to sneak out of the kitchen,” she says. And if you can't make it to Yountville, you should at least make this game day-friendly, chicken finger version of one of Ad Hoc’s signature dishes.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Fingers

6-quart sauté pan with splatter screen

Yield: 8-10 servings

For the brine:

1 gallon water

1 cup kosher salt

1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

12 bay leaves

1⁄2 cup garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

About 1⁄2 ounce (3 large) rosemary sprigs

About 1⁄2 ounce (1 large bunch) thyme sprigs

About 2 ounces (1 large bunch) flat-leaf parsley sprigs

Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons

4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the coating:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons cayenne

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 quart buttermilk

10 cups peanut oil

Kosher salt

Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnishing

For the brine: Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using.

Rinse the chicken breasts, place them in the cold brine and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove the chicken breasts from the brine and pat dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to them. With a knife and pair of kitchen shears, cut the chicken breasts into tenders.

Bring the peanut oil to 330° in the 6-quart sauté pan.

Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl and place the buttermilk in a second container. Just before frying, dip each piece of chicken into the coating, patting off the excess, then into the buttermilk and back into the coating. Place the chicken on a parchment paper-lined sheet tray.

When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of dark meat into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease. Adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature. Carefully add the meat to the oil and fry for about 6 to 7 minutes, until cooked.

Remove to the tray, sprinkle with salt and turn off the heat under the oil. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly. It is very hot when it comes out of the oil.

While the chicken rests, add the herb sprigs to the hot oil and let them cook and crisp for a few minutes. Arrange the chicken on the serving platter and garnish with the fried herb sprigs.