Slap My Momma Fried Chicken
I am sure some of you are wondering about the title of this post, and let me assure you; all will be explained. And no, I have not performed any violence against my mom. (Hasn’t she suffered enough already?…)
A plate of fresh fried chicken. As much a sign of summer’s arrival as fireflies.
In recognition of my need to provide y’all with more recipes, I’m offering up my fried chicken recipe since it is definitely that time of year. That and I think this recipe is really something special. Would you like to make fried chicken with super-crispy skin and a moist, juicy inside that is bursting with flavor? If so, today is your lucky day. (If you said “no,” then there is really something wrong with you…)
This is a recipe I developed back in culinary school actually. I was taking a food science course, and the practical part of the final exam was that each of us was given a chicken. Using what we knew of food science and how it related to cooking meat, we had to provide the chef instructor with a fully-cooked chicken that had a crispy outside and moist inside. Any cooking method was allowed – provided it ended up as requested.
Basically stuff moves in all directions across the cell membranes. For more information, visit the nice people who made this diagram: www.exploratorium.edu
The answer to this style of cooking is brining. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of brining birds, allow me to give you a crash course. (The rest of you can skip this paragraph.) Brining involves placing a bird in a salt/sugar water solution for a few hours before cooking it. While you may initially think this would dry out the bird (salt water draws water out of the bird) the result is actually the opposite. To get scientific about it, water is initially drawn out of the bird, and then the salt (and water) in the brine solution comes back into the bird. The salt then denatures the proteins in the bird meat slightly. This denaturing means that when the proteins are cooked, they can’t coil up as tightly – the action which squeezes water out of meat. If not as much water can be squeezed out, more stays in the bird. And with the extra water that came back into the bird in the brining process, the result is a much juicier end product. OK, lesson over.
Brining was obviously part of what I had to do for this exam, and I decided that a brined fried chicken would probably give me a super-crispy skin as well. (The fact that we had a large deep fryer on hand helped me make that decision as well…) But for this chicken, I wanted to add more flavor with my brine, so I brined it in buttermilk, which up until now I had only ever used in the coating. The result was a brine that stuck to the outside of the chicken as well – adding another layer of flavor under the crispy fried coating.
For the coating, my time in NC taught me that flour is the way to go. But there is no reason not to add some flavor in this step as well. I may not have a secret recipe of seven herbs and spices, but choosing flavors I like is not all that difficult, and of course you can adjust this to your preference as well.
In the class final exam, the recipe worked like a charm, and I presented my chicken to the chef instructor who agreed it was fabulous. (I received second place in the course behind what I personally thought was a horridly over-salted Guinness-brined chicken. But the guys who won were good friends of mine, so I was happy for them…) But after chef tried the chicken, there was another student from the class who took a bite as well. He loved it so much that after one bite he looked at me and said, “That’s so damn good, I gotta go home and slap my momma!”
The name of this chicken was immediately carved in stone for all eternity.
Slap My Momma Fried Chicken
3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup salt
2 Tbsp sugar
4 cloves garlic (chopped coarsely)
1 Tbsp paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 chicken cut up into 8 pieces, or about 8 thighs and/or drumsticks
1. Combine all the brine ingredients in a large non-reactive bowl, add the chicken pieces and allow chicken to soak in the brine for 3 hours in the fridge.
2. Take the chicken out of the brine, shake off excess brine (especially large pieces of garlic that may be sticking) and place on a rack on top of a sheet in the fridge, uncovered, for 2 more hours. (Don’t rinse or rub off the brine, you want that flavor to stick around.)
3. To coat, combine the egg, buttermilk and baking powder in one bowl, whisk well. Combine the flour, Old Bay and thyme in a large flat plate. Dredge the chicken in the liquid, coat with the flour and fry in a 350 degree deep fryer until done – about 3-5 minutes. (You can also fry it in a Dutch oven with about an inch or two of fat in there – you’ll just have to flip the chicken to cook both sides, and I would recommend a higher cooking temperature with this method – like 375 degrees.)
I doubt you will actually slap your momma as a result of eating this – in fact, I sincerely hope you don’t. But I’m sure you’ll want to call her to share this recipe. Because what good is a plate of fried chicken, if you can’t share it?
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