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I am a sucker for fried chicken and can't seem to get enough of it. I grew up eating mom's karaage, a Japanese version of fried chicken that has been marinated in a mix of soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. It was my absolute favorite okazu and always a special treat to find in my little bento box. A crispy, well-seasoned skin that has been rendered of excess fat is a hallmark of well-made fried chicken everywhere. Cantonese style crispy fried chicken, Korean fried chicken, Popeye's, it does not matter, give me the chicken. Even if I am not familiar with the establishment and my instinct tells me no, if I see fried chicken in the restaurant menu, it's difficult to deviate from the idea of putting my lips on juicy moist chicken with a well-seasoned crust as crisp and crunchy as a potato chip. Call it a bit of an obsession.
All this talk about the Rapture this week got me revisiting the idea of my last meal on Earth. It's a tough question really when you have three meals a day for a lifetime. And, for me, eating is an event - I have planned many days around eating. I most definitely had to get something to eat and drink before the Rapture. Sashimi with a nice cold sake? Crusty bread with a bottle of red wine sounds good, too. But heck, if the world is coming to end that means there is no need to clean the kitchen, so I'm frying some chicken!
I have been tinkering around with buttermilk soaks for some time now, but this time I decided to go with a pre-buttermilk brine to maximize moisture and flavor. I also enjoy combining the East and West and, off of a recommendation from the girlfriend, opted for rice flour over all-purpose. The result was crispy skin rivaling that of traditional Southern-style chicken but with a much lighter breading.
Rapture Fried Chicken Recipe
**This recipe requires that you soak the chicken in both a brine and buttermilk marinade for 10-16 hours before cooking.
Chicken Brine Ingredients
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup kosher salt (do not use table salt for brining)
2 quarts cold water
Buttermilk Marinade Ingredients
1 quart of buttermilk
1 teaspoon powdered thyme
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fried Chicken Ingredients
~2 cups grapeseed oil, or any other oil with high smoke-point such as canola oil or peanut oil
1½ cup rice flour
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 - 3 pound fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or 8 pieces of thighs and drumsticks)
Mix together garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, kosher salt with cold water until fully dissolved. Place chicken in a non-reactive container, pour enough to submerge the chicken completely. Refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.
Discard brine and remove chicken, rinse with cold water. Using the same container you used for the brine, mix buttermilk marinade ingredients and add chicken. Cover and return to refrigerator for another 8 to 12 hour soak.
Move chicken from buttermilk marinade to colander to drain. Fill heavy-bottomed skillet (we use a cast iron pan) 1/3 full with oil. If you have stainless steel or anodized aluminum pan that can take high heat that will also work. We want to get the oil warm enough where a pinch of flour starts to sizzle when dropped in the hot oil. If the pan starts smoking, thats too hot, back off the heat. In the meantime, mix rice flour with fresh ground pepper in a large paper bag.
Place the drained chicken pieces (2-3 pieces at a time) in bag and dredge thoroughly in the flour mixture. I like to just drop the chicken in, close bag tightly and gently shake. Slowly add chicken to hot oil, being sure not overcrowd pan - you will most likely have to fry in multiple batches depending on the size of your pan. Overcrowding the pan will rapidly decrease oil temperature, resulting in a soggy, rather than crispy crust. Fry on first side (skin side down) for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the pieces over with tongs or spider and fry the second side for another 10-12 minutes again until golden brown. It is always a good idea to check in for browning at about the 5 minute mark so you can rearrange in pan if some pieces are browning faster than others. Take care to move and turn gently, as well as avoid overturning so as to disrupt the breading as little as possible.
Remove chicken from pan using tongs or spider. Drain excess oil by placing a drying rack over a baking sheet and season one last time with salt and pepper while the chicken is still hot. These last steps are crucial to achieving a deliciously seasoned and crispy crust. Depending on the number of batches you may want to move baking sheet to a 200° F oven until ready to serve.
If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you want your last meal on earth to be?