Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- 2 Organic Free-Range Chickens, 2 1/2- to 3-lb each
- 1 gallon Chicken Brine (See Step 1)
- Peanut or canola oil, for deep-frying
- 1 quart buttermilk
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup garlic powder
- 1/4 cup onion powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika, plus 1 teaspoon
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
- Fleur de sel or fine sea salt
- Fresh Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
- Fresh Thyme sprigs, for garnish
- Make the brine: In a large pot, combine 1 gallon of cold water, 1 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons honey, 12 bay leaves, 1 head of smashed/unpeeled garlic, 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, 3 rosemary sprigs, 1 small bunch thyme, 1 small bunch parsley and the finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons. Bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat then cool completely. Chill before using. (This brine can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
- Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add in the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours (no longer, or the chicken may become too salty). Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.If you have two large pots (about 6 inches deep) and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark and white meat at the same time; if not, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat. No matter what size pot you have, the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of peanut oil and heat to 320 degrees F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Meanwhile, combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.
- Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. (Putting the pieces skin-side-up will allow excess fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin-side-down could trap some of the fat.) Make sure that the oil is at the correct temperature, and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean them meat-side-up against the thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with fine sea salt.
- Turn up the heat and heat the oil to 340 degrees F. Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt, and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat.
- Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add the herb sprigs to the oil (which will still be hot) and let them cook and crisp for a few seconds, then arrange them over the chicken.
CHEF'S NOTE: Let the chicken rest for 7 to 10 minutes after it comes out of the fryer so that it has a chance to cool down. If the chicken has rested for longer than 10 minutes, put the tray of chicken in a 400 degree F oven for a minute or two to ensure that the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot.