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Video: Indulge with buttermilk fried chicken

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    >> good to the last drop.

    >> this morning on "today's kitchen," hot chef thomas keller . he's one of the most acclaimed chefs in america and the owner and chef of nine award-winning restaurants and bakeries, including northern california 's french laundry . chef keller along with chef dave cruz have written a new book called " ad hoc at home." thomas, good to see you, sir. how are you doing?

    >> good to see you. you've got gloves on.

    >> you wanted me to have these gloves on. tell me about ad hoc . it's a little different than a lot of your restaurants.

    >> ad hoc is a family-style restaurant with literally no menu. you come in, we write the menu every day depending on what's available in the market and that's what we prepare that night. you come in, sit down and we feed you like family.

    >> wow.

    >> that's what this is about and what this book is about.

    >> one of my favorite family dinners, fried chicken . what is it about fried chicken ?

    >> it's one of the iconic american dishes we love. our parents made. it there's no real recipe for it. there's all variations of it, depending what your mother, your grandmother did, what part of the country you're from. but one thing i can say is it's truly iconic american. what we've done with this chicken is brine it.

    >> why?

    >> the flavors penetrate into the meat to give it that much more complex flavors, as well as keeping it moister. here we have a brine, and it's basically water, salt and sugar. we replaced the sugar with honey and we have lemon, which is really key to this, because lemon really makes chicken have that extra flavor that we love.

    >> oh, okay.

    >> and then parsley and bay leaves and some thyme.

    >> how long do you have to have it in there?

    >> 12 hours. we take it out, rinse it. and one of the things we have to remember is tempering. tempering is really, really important. what i mean by that is bringing the product, whether it's your chicken or fish or anything, up to room temperature . so when you begin to fry it, it cooks more evenly.

    >> and you say it's not a bad thing to leave them in the refrigerator uncovered for up to a day to two days?

    >> it's not a bad thing. you want to bring it outside, though, and temper it.

    >> okay.

    >> so, grab that for me.

    >> we're basically double dipping this?

    >> we're double dipping. we have spiced flour here. we have paprika, cayenne, garlic pepper, dip it in flour and buttermilk.

    >> why buttermilk?

    >> we love the flavor, the acid in the buttermilk. it gives it that complex flavor, and dredge it in there.

    >> dredge it in there. the only time double dipping is okay.

    >> double dipping is okay. and with all due caution --

    >> how hot does the oil have to be?

    >> we have dark meat, so we have dark meat at 320 for about 12 minutes, and then we raise the temperature for the white meat to 340, and that goes for about seven minutes. then we want to do our wings at the same temperature, 340, for about six minutes. so, be careful there.

    >> careful when you drop that in, okay.

    >> now you can take the gloves off, i can wipe my hands. the next, which we have -- of course, we have beautiful fried chicken going on here.

    >> mm-mmm.

    >> you can smell that. this, by the way, is the new line called d-5. it's just an extraordinary product.

    >> ah, the ladies are coming in.

    >> yes, sir.

    >> you can see that look at that.

    >> mm-mmm.

    >> oh, look at that.

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> ooh, yeah.

    >> hot.

    >> don't touch it, dear. you'll burn yourself.

    >> asbestos fingers. after years of cooking in the kitchen, you have no feeling.

    >> we take some thyme or rosemary and just fry it --

    >> ooh!

    >> back off just a second.

    >> and then?

    >> then -- really lovely flavor at the end.

    >> really?

    >> crispness to it.

    >> so it makes it crispy and you put it on top?

    >> on top, exactly.

    >> oh, nice. you know, i kind of do that -- now, that's how they do it in the restaurants! oh, i see now.

    >> it's about the atmosphere.

    >> their secret!

    >> when we come back here --

    >> of course we have --

    >> ladies?

    >> what is that?

    >> we have a wonderful fried chicken dinner here.

    >> mm-mmm.

    >> of course, we have the fried chicken , buttermilk biscuits to go along with the buttermilk chicken, broccoli --

    >> is there any butter on that, too?

    >> a little bit of butter. a little bit of butter, but it's fried chicken , so we're not using olive oil --

    >> what have you done to the potatoes?

    >> these are crushed potatoes. we roast them and then take a fork and just on the sheet pan , the roasting pan, we crush them.

    >> little cookies.

    >> real good.

    >> and of course, my favorite --

    >> of course.

    >> which is our version of a lemon meringue pie , the lemon bars.

    >> is it a graham cracker grain?

    >> it's a crust with the lemon kurd and the meringue on top.

    >> the book is " ad hoc at home." thank you very much.

    >> five seconds.

    >> what do you have coming up?

    >> we have a show.

    >> will you just tell us what you've got coming up?

    >> we get a laugh.

    >> we get a laugh. al,

TODAY recipes
updated 11/6/2009 10:25:01 AM ET 2009-11-06T15:25:01

Recipe: Buttermilk fried chicken

Artisan

If there’s a better fried chicken, I haven’t tasted it. First, and critically, the chicken is brined for 12 hours in a herb-lemon brine, which seasons the meat and helps it stay juicy. The flour is seasoned with garlic and onion powders, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. The chicken is dredged in the seasoned flour, dipped in buttermilk, and then dredged again in the flour. The crust becomes almost feathered and is very crisp.

Fried chicken is a great American tradition that’s fallen out of favor. A taste of this, and you will want it back in your weekly routine.

Ingredients
  • Two 2 1/2- to 3-pound chickens (see note on chicken size)
  • For dredging and frying
  • Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For coating
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
  • Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish
  • For the chicken brine
  • 5 lemons, halved
  • 24 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch (4 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
  • 1/2 cup clover honey
  • 1 head garlic, halved through the equator
  • 3/4 cup black peppercorns
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
  • 2 gallons water
Preparation

For the brine (makes 2 gallons)
The key ingredient here is the lemon, which goes wonderfully with chicken, as do the herbs: bay leaf, parsley and thyme. This amount of brine will be enough for 10 pounds.

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, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.           

For the chicken
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 degees 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.

Note on chicken size: You may need to go to a farmers’ market to get these small chickens. Grocery store chickens often run 3 to 4 pounds. They can, of course, be used in this recipe but if chickens in the 2 1/2- to 3-pound range are available to you, they’re worth seeking out. They’re a little easier to cook properly at the temperatures we recommend here and, most important, pieces this size result in the optimal meat-to-crust proportion, which is such an important part of the pleasure of fried chicken.

Tips

Note: We 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°F oven for a minute or two to ensure that the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot.

Serving Size

Serves 4 to 6

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