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Fennel Fried Chicken With Strawberry Rhubarb Sweet and Sour Sauce


Chef notes

Preparing a plate of crispy fried chicken can be the heart of a good summer cookout. This recipe takes it to the next level by incorporating the season's fresh bounty. Gently tangy fennel seed gets incorporated into the seasoning and brine to help create the most tender chicken. Cornflakes and buttermilk bring home the batter while flaky sea salt tops off the sizzling hot finished produce. On the side, summer's starlets, strawberry and rhubarb, highlight the sweet and sour notes for the perfect dipping sauce. 

Technique tip: The brine can be made ahead and will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The chicken pieces need to sit in the brine overnight before dredging and frying.

Special equipment: Deep fryer.


Fried chicken
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
  • 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds), parted
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 cups cornflakes
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 teaspoons fennel pollen, for serving
  • 1 tablespoon Maldon salt, for serving
Strawberry Rhubarb Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • 2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup strawberries, stems removed, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • A few cracks of fresh ground pepper
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Make the brine:


In a medium-to-large pot, combine 4 cups of water, kosher salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and fennel seed in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely to room temperature before using (or refrigerating it).


Once brine is cool, add the bone-in chicken pieces and refrigerate overnight. 

Batter and cook the fried chicken:


In a large pot, bring the brine and chicken to a simmer and cook until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the brine and allow to cool. Discard the brine.


In a gallon-sized plastic bag, make the batter by adding 2 cups of the flour, cornstarch and cornflakes. Seal the bag and use your hands to crush the mixture until well combined.


Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 F.


Put the remaining 2 cups of flour and ground fennel in a shallow baking dish. Pour the buttermilk into a second shallow baking dish, and the cornflake mixture into a third. Dredge each piece of the chicken in flour, then buttermilk and then the cornflake mixture until well-coated. Working in batches, drop coated chicken pieces into the oil and fry until golden-brown, turning as needed, 5 to 6 minutes. Take care not to overload the fryer.


Remove the chicken from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined sheet pan, sprinkle with Maldon salt and fennel pollen. 

For the sweet and sour sauce:

In a medium-sized, heavy bottom saucepan, combine the rhubarb and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until the rhubarb becomes tender and saucy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add strawberries, vinegar and pepper. Stir to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature. Will keep in refrigerator up to one week.