I love fried chicken but have always avoided making it at home because I imagined vats and vats of oil (and what do you do with it afterward?) and batches and batches of chicken and all sorts of dredging mess and just general sweating while dealing with hot, dangerous fat. Yikes! But then I discovered a few small victories that changed it all. First, let the chicken sit overnight in seasoned buttermilk to ensure that it’s flavorful all the way to the bone, not to mention extremely tender because of all the acidity in the buttermilk (try soaking a whole chicken in buttermilk before roasting it—it’s awesome). Second, dredge the chicken in seasoned flour that’s cut with a bit of cornstarch to make the batter extra crunchy. Third, shallow-fry the chicken in a deep, big pot so that you’re protected from the oil and have room to maneuver (you don’t need to deep-fry to make great fried chicken), and use a good old-fashioned splatter screen while frying (they work!). Fourth, let the leftover oil cool in the pot, pour it into an empty bottle, screw on the lid, and toss it—easy and safe disposal. The last is that fried chicken doesn’t have to be a huge event for a big crowd. I like frying up a single chicken, cut into pieces. It’s the perfect amount for four people (if it’s just two of you, there will be enough to have some cold the next day . . . the best part of fried chicken).
From Small Victories by Julia Turshen (Chronicle Books, 2016). —Julia Turshen
hot pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
(240ml) buttermilk or ¾ cup (180ml) whole milk mixed with 1/4 cup (60ml) plain yogurt
garlic cloves, minced
3 ½-pound (1.6kg) chicken, cut into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 breasts cut in half across the bone, backbone discarded (or saved for another use, like stock)
(120g) all-purpose flour
Neutral oil, such as canola, grapeseed, or safflower, for frying
In This Recipe
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, cayenne, 1 teaspoon of the pimentón, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover the bowl and set it aside at room temperature for up to 1 day. This will get drizzled on the fried chicken once it’s done . . . hoorah!
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, garlic, remaining 3 teaspoon pimentón, and 2 tablespoons salt. Pour into a large resealable plastic bag and add the chicken. Close the bag and turn to coat the chicken. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before you’re ready to cook it so that it can come to room temperature.
In a large baking dish, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Pour ½ inch (12mm) oil into a large heavy pot over medium heat and let the oil heat up.
Meanwhile, take the chicken out of the bag, working with one piece at a time, and allow the excess buttermilk to drip back into the bag. Place the chicken into the flour mixture. Dredge each piece lightly on all sides and transfer to a plate. Discard the excess buttermilk and flour mixtures.
When the oil is hot enough that it bubbles around the chicken when the edge of a piece is dipped into it, use tongs to gently and carefully place a few pieces in the oil—don’t crowd them (the number of pieces will depend on the size of your pot).
Cook the chicken, turning the pieces every few minutes and adjusting the heat as needed, until the skin is dark golden brown and the chicken is firm to the touch. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken should register 170°F (70°C); this will take about 15 minutes for the wings and breast pieces and 18 to 20 minutes for the legs and thighs. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel–lined serving platter and continue frying the rest, adding more oil to the pot if necessary.
Serve immediately with the reserved honey mixture for drizzling and dipping. It’s also just as good at room temperature and even great cold.
Notes: If you’re working with a larger chicken, anything at or over 4 pounds (1.8kg), cut each breast into thirds across the bone instead of in half to ensure even cooking and lots of crispy, browned pieces.
If you’re making a big batch of chicken, you can keep the first pieces warm and crisp by placing them on a cooling rack set on a baking sheet in a 250°F (120°C) oven.