Rep Note:
Fried Chicken
9 May 2018

¶ Fried chicken continues to be worryingly unpredictable. No matter how it comes out, everybody says it’s great, but in my humble opinion it is sometimes, and for reasons I can’t settle on, dry and somewhat heavy-tasting. What little I understand of the science of deep frying would attribute this dryness to imperfect coating. Whether the chicken is marinated in a batter, or dredged in buttermilk and flour, the coating is supposed to form an instant, impermeable seal the moment the piece of chicken hits the hot fat. This seals in all the juices. But if that’s my problem, then I’ve perfected the art of imperfectly coating four or five pieces of chicken — sometimes I fry six — to exactly the same degree. If you ask me, it’s the variability of the chicken itself — which, by the way, I always brine. When some chicken is done, it’s overcooked. (If cooking time is shortened, it is not done, but unpleasantly pink.) 

The chicken that I made on Sunday night, though, was terrific, and I was presented with a different problem. I couldn’t eat as much as I wanted. I could barely get two pieces down. Admittedly, they were not on the small side. But they were perfect. I think that I am going to have to abandon the menu, so hearty on paper, so oppressive at the table, combining fried chicken with celery soup. Kathleen didn’t even take her usual drumstick, so there were two lovely pieces for me to drool over hopelessly. 

For nearly two years, I’ve been battering chicken in a mixture of flour, cornstarch, baking powder and spices. I tried mixing these together with buttermilk once, but the results were no better than if I’d used plain water, and I reflected that the purpose of buttermilk in dredged chicken is to brine the meat — which is then coated in flour, so that the buttermilk itself does not come in direct contact with the peanut oil. Buttermilk batter may be worse than a gilt lily.

What goes best with fried chicken? More fried chicken! 

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