Annesfood had us at baking powder. Neither of us had ever come across baking powder in a fried chicken recipe before, but since it’s found in a lot of tempura batters, we were optimistic. We were pleased to discover that the batter (followed by a coating of flour, more baking powder, herbs and spices) does indeed produce an extra crunchy crust. At the same time, the meat remains moist and flavorful, having wallowed in a bath of buttermilk, fresh sage and some other herbs and spices. Annesfood adds another interesting detail: she uses boneless chicken thighs, which allows the meat to cook more quickly, thus preventing the coating from getting too dark. Finding boneless thighs with the skin (a requisite for fried chicken in our opinion) is difficult, but you can easily bone your own by making parallel cuts along the sides of the thigh bone and then scraping the meat gently away.
Crushing the bay leaves.
The fresh sage smelled wonderful.
The brine ingredients: sea salt, sugar, garlic, ancho chili powder, cayenne, sage, and bay leaves.
Stirring in the buttermilk is very interesting, apparently.
Annesfood calls for boneless chicken thighs. We found it very difficult to find anything but boneless and skinless, so we took a moment and just boned them ourselves!
The chicken marinated in the buttermilk brine for roughly 3 hours.
After removing the chicken from the brine, we drained it for about an hour per side.
To make the batter, annesfood had us whisk together buttermilk, an egg, and some baking powder. The baking powder made the coating extra crisp.
The coating mixture.
Since the chicken is boneless, it cooked more quickly than fried chicken usually does.
A supercrunchy crust makes all the difference.
Chef James writes this recipe took nearly 20 years to develop, and we think it shows. The results is intensely flavorful and expertly spiced chicken with a crisp, dark skin reminiscent of parchment. The meat gets coated in a lively spice rub before being doused with buttermilk and hot sauce, which adds another layer of heat. The brine tenderizes the dark meat, and then it’s time for a quick dusting of flour and a date with the fryer. Chef James calls for oil that starts at 325 degrees and gradually climbs to 350, but we found that our chicken ended up a bit dark. For our second batch we started at 300 degrees and maxed out at about 340, which produced a perfect mahogany crust. All fryers are different, though, so just keep an eye on the browning and adjust your temperature accordingly.
First, Chef James had us make a dry rub for the chicken.
After hand grinding a tablespoon of black pepper, we were reminded of why it's often easier to grind a larger batch of peppercorns in a coffee grinder.
We let the chicken sit in the dry rub for an hour.
And then added buttermilk...
... and hot sauce, and let the chicken sit for another hour or so.
When it was time to fry, we seasoned some flour in preparation for dredging.
As chicken legs vary greatly in size, be sure to watch yours carefully for burning, and be willing to go longer than a recipe calls for if it doesn't look done yet!
The crust is spicy and almost impossibly crisp.