I was having a conversation with a coworker the other day and we somehow found ourselves discussing casinos.
He's, how can I put this kindly, an avid but terrible gambler, who readily admitted that he'd lost far more than he'd ever won but continued to enjoy it just the same. I'm the polar opposite--I've never gambled for real and hate the thought of risking my hard-earned money on the hope that I'll get lucky. I do think that beginner's luck is definitely a true phenomenon, and if I ever decide to gamble and just so happen to strike it big on my first try, you'd better believe I'll be taking my winnings out the door as quickly as my little feet will carry me.
What does all this have to do with fried chicken? I'm glad you asked. This batch marks my very first attempt at made-from-scratch, real-deal fried chicken, and I clearly had some beginner's luck on my hands. With the thoroughly tried and tested findings of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt as my guide, I used a basic buttermilk marinade and straightforward seasonings, girded my loins, and turned up the heat on some oil. That was the scary part for me--hot oil has always intimidated me. But I love my fiance so much that after probably about, oh, two years of
Sure, I had some blunders and made some rookie mistakes--the oil wasn't hot enough (patience is NOT my finest virtue and I couldn't find my blasted candy thermometer), my paprika was bordering on stale (and wasn't the best to begin with), and I forgot to put the skin side down on some of the pieces. None of those things really ruined the dish, though, and it turns out that all of my fears were unfounded. Take a seat in the back, hot oil--you don't scare me anymore.
First-Time's-a-Charm Fried Chicken
Based on this recipe
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon vodka
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon salt, divided use
- 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on breasts, legs, drumsticks, and/or wings
- 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2-3 cups vegetable or peanut oil
Combine the paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork.
In a large bowl, whisk the buttermilk, vodka, egg, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture in a large bowl.
Add the chicken pieces and toss and turn to coat, then transfer the contents of the bowl to a gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight, flipping the bag occasionally to redistribute the contents and coat the chicken evenly.
Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and the remaining spice mixture in a large bowl.
Add 3 tablespoons of the marinade from the zipper-lock bag and work it into the flour with your fingertips.
Remove one piece of chicken from the bag, allowing excess buttermilk to drip off, drop the chicken into the flour mixture, and toss to coat.
Continue adding chicken pieces to the flour mixture one at a time until they are all in the bowl. Toss the chicken until every piece is thoroughly coated, pressing with your hands to get the flour to adhere in a thick layer.
Let the flour sit on the chicken for 10 minutes or so, until it looks kind of pasty, then add a little more of the mixture to the patches that look moist.
Heat the oil to 425 degrees F in a 12-inch straight-sided cast-iron chicken fryer or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature, being careful not to let the fat get any hotter.
Place the chicken skin side down in the pan. The temperature should drop, so adjust the heat to maintain a temperature at 350 degrees F for the duration of the cooking. Fry the chicken until it’s a deep golden brown on the first side, about 6-8 minutes; do not move the chicken or start checking for doneness until it has fried for at least 3 minutes, or you may knock off the coating. Carefully flip the chicken pieces with tongs and cook until the second side is golden brown, about 6-8 minutes longer. Let cool on a wire rack briefly before devouring.