Frying foods at home is one of those “beyond my comfort zone” aspects of frying. It tends to make a mess and smells up the house. More than a year ago I tried a cold oil method to fry French fries, and that turned out pretty well. But I haven’t done much frying since. Last week my attention was caught by a Cooks Illustrated recipe for fried chicken that uses less oil.
The long and the short of it is that they decided on a method that uses frying in a shallow amount of oil to help form a nice crust on the exterior, followed by oven baking to finish cooking it through. The results is supposed to be a evenly cooked chicken with nice exterior crunch without as much oil and without as much hassle from deep frying.
You start by placing the chicken pieces – I used boneless breasts – in a buttermilk and salt brine, combined with cayenne pepper and other spices for several hours. Would you believe I cannot buy bone-in chicken breasts at the store? I have to get a whole chicken for that. Obviously they aren’t butchering their own chickens.
While waiting, I prepped some long bean. These two-foot long beans look like green beans and are just a little less crispy. Good alternative, though. I stir-fried these with a splash of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of salt, and some slivered almonds.
Next, prepare a coating of flour, baking powder, a little salt, and more spices. The trick here is that you add just a bit of buttermilk and start stirring it, so you form little clumps that make the chicken’s crust more substantial.
Take the chicken out of the brine and dredge it in the flour mixture, being sure to pat on a nice thick coating. Easier said than done!
While waiting for the oil to heat, I finished the mashed potatoes. These keep nicely covered at a very low heat with a bit of butter on top.
Time to fry! Temperature control is a pain. My thermometer doesn’t reach to the bottom of the pan so when there isn’t much oil, I don’t get an accurate read. I ended up scorching the bottoms of the chicken just a little. D’oh… After about five minutes in the oil (turning half way through the time) I transferred the chicken to a rack placed in a baking tray and finished for about twenty minutes in the oven.
Despite the slightly burned exterior, the end result looked pretty nice. Tasted good, too!
Inside was nice and juice, thanks to the brining. Yum.