Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Labor Day Party, and Thomas Keller's Buttermilk Fried Chicken


Can I tell you about the heaven that was my Labor Day?  The So Cal sun was shining in a beautiful, cloudless sky, and I got to entertain six wonderful friends and cook a full meal for them, including mouth-watering buttermilk fried chicken, fresh side dishes, and made-from-scratch dark chocolate ice cream and salted butter caramel ice cream for dessert.  We caught up on our lives, laughed like crazy, and everyone left with full stomachs.  If this isn't heaven, then I don't know what is!      


I should tell you, the inception for this Labor Day party originally came from Thomas Keller's famous buttermilk fried chicken recipe.  As I was paging through Ad Hoc at Home, the images of this golden fried comfort food snuggled down deep in my brain and refused to budge; I figured resistance was futile (can you ever say no to fried chicken?), and decided to use it as an excuse to have a party.


Since the fried chicken was going to be the star of the show, I wanted to use light, in-season vegetables for side dishes.  I started out with watermelon tossed with lime, followed by a quick and easy vinegar coleslaw which I accidentally oversalted but everyone still loved.  I was especially excited to use sweet, green heirloom tomatoes and my own tomatoes (Yes! They survived!) to throw together a quick caprese salad.  And finally, a summer party isn't a party without corn on the cob!     


Moving on to the fried chicken, Thomas Keller's recipe first calls for a 12-hour brining with lemons, fresh herbs, and garlic.  The brining infuses the chicken with lots of flavor and ensures that the meat stays really juicy.  Tempting as it may be to skip this arduous overnight step, don't even think about it; the salty brine elevates common chicken to rockstar status, and after you taste it, you will become an adoring fan that just can't get enough.   


Next, he recommends using small chickens for the meat, because they are easier to cook properly and "result in the optimal meat-to-crust proportion."  I like his scientific thinking, and also the fact that smaller chickens must be organic and/or sustainably farmed, since non-organic chickens tend to be huge.    

Finally, the chickens are breaded with layers of seasoned flour and buttermilk, ensuring that the crust is thick, crispy, and extremely tasty.  Basically, the stuff that fried chicken dreams are made of.  (P.S. Don't be scared by the frying oil.  It might look like a hot disaster waiting to happen, but using a large stockpot and submerging the chicken keeps oil splatter and danger low.)  


After all the brining, breading, and frying, my friends and I gathered around the table to enjoy the Labor Day feast.  As my teeth crunched through the golden fried crust of my drumstick and I fully tasted the flavor of the juicy chicken, I closed my eyes and sighed with pleasure.  This fried chicken was perfection.  The lemony brine had made the chicken meat taste better than any I have had before, and that taste married perfectly with the seasoned crust.  I felt like I could eat it every single day, and my friends couldn't agree more (in fact, they are still talking about it!).  I would not have changed a thing about this meal, except maybe that there would have been leftovers.      



** This post is my first entry for the Project Food Blog challenge (see my profile!).  We were asked to submit a post that defines us as a food blogger, comes from the heart and is true to our blog.  I thought this post would be a good representation, since my blog is all about the happiness that comes from eating well and feeding those I love.     


Thomas Keller's Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Brine: 
15 bay leaves
3 lemons, halved
1 head garlic, halved
1 bunch each, parsley and thyme
1/3 c. honey
3 tbsp. peppercorns
1 1/4 cup kosher salt
20 cups/1 1/4 gallon water

Coating:
6 cups flour
1/4 cup each, garlic and onion powder
1 tbsp each, paprika, cayenne, and salt
1 tsp black pepper
(You could probably get away with halving this)

6 pounds organic chicken
Canola oil, about 1 1/2-2 quarts
2-3 cups buttermilk

Place all the ingredients for the brine and half the amount of water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, and stir to dissolve the salt, then remove the brine from the heat, and chill completely.  Once brine is completely cold, add the remaining water and the chicken and refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.

Next, remove the chicken from the brine, rinse and pat it dry, and allow it to come to room temperature (about 1 1/2 hours).  Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the flour coating in a large bowl, then divide it into two medium bowls, and put the buttermilk in a third bowl.  Set up a breading station, with flour bowl, buttermilk bowl, flour bowl, followed by a baking sheet covered with foil or wax paper.  

Once the chicken is ready, begin to warm the oil on high heat and bread the chicken.  First, dip the chicken into the flour, then into the buttermilk, followed by the flour again (shake off excess each time).  Place each breaded piece of chicken on the covered baking sheet, and when the oil has reached 320 degrees Fahrenheit, gently lower several pieces into the hot oil. (I fried 4 thighs or 7 drumsticks at a time).  After a minute or two, use tongs to move the chicken around and prevent it from sticking to the pot, and then fry for an additional 10-12 minutes.  As the chicken is frying, the temperature of the oil will drop, so adjust the heat on your burner as necessary to keep the temperature high.  The chicken is done when the crust is a deep golden brown.  Transfer the chicken to a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet to allow any oil to drip off, then serve immediately.      

58 comments:

  1. I have some buttermilk leftover from the batch of buttermilk ice cream I made. This might fit the bill to use it up.

    Great post. I love the picture of the herbs, lemon and garlic. It's not often I see garlic in that state. :D

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  2. These look fingerlicking! Bet everybody enjoyed it tremendously!

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  3. I loved your post, your Labor Day party menu was pure perfection. That buttermilk fried chicken looks amazing!!

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  4. That chicken looks amazing! I can see why there weren't any leftovers!!!

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  5. Wonderful menu! That chicken looks so...CRISPY! Mm..

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  6. wee, grats on your first entry :) your dish is a celebration of life and friendship and i'm glad that through this world of food blogging, i'm able to meet you though continents apart :) thanks for sharing your first PFB post and i'm really looking forward to your next ones!

    P.S. your chicken and sides look yummy :)

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  7. Lovely post Amanda and truly one that defines you as a blogger. That fried chicken has been on my list for some time now.

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  8. Beautiful photography and a wonderful post!!! Kate @kateiscooking

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  9. I just discovered your blog on foodgawker.com. I love it! I'm a research scientist too! Great post. It all looks so comforting and yummy.

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  10. Great post! You do a fantastic job not telling us what your blog is about, but showing us. I have to add Ad Hoc at Home to my cookbook list. Thanks for sharing and good luck!

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  11. Yum! This chicken looks like perfection! You really did an amazing job. Good luck with the competition!

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  12. A wonderful feast and those fried chicken sound absolutely perfect, yum!

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  13. that looks like a comfort-meal and a relaxing time with good friends. excellent brine as it looks like it gave the chicken lots of delicious flavor. great first post - good luck! :)

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  14. I can personally attest to the deliciousness of this friend chicken. Everything you served was amazing, but the friend chicken stole the show. Mmmmm. I am very glad to be friends with The Cilantropist. ;)

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  15. Amanda, I love reading all your yummy recipes, they make me so hungry. Your photos are perfect and your instructions are clear! Good Luck with PFB!
    -Gina-

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  16. Glad to hear your tomatoes survived! We're finally getting some - better late than never :) I splurged and bought Ad Hoc At Home and have been meaning to try his fried chicken - it looks amazing!

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  17. Oooooooh, that looks so yummy! And I'm glad that your tomatoes made it!! :-)

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  18. You already know how I feel about this post and that fried chicken. But I need to add that there needs to be a Southern California food blogger meetup in which we vote and each person has to bring the designated dish from their blog. I would choose this chicken.

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  19. great job exemplifying your blog and your life--though I would love to see a little more Parma next time.

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  20. OK, now I'm craving fried chicken! This looks fabulous- When I was little my dad fried chicken every Sunday. He'd put it in to soak in salt water on Saturday night- not a fancy brine like yours, but it made heavenly chicken. Your chicken looks marvelous with all of that crunchy crust!

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  21. I love this recipe... I made it about a month ago and my family went NUTS!! delicious! - Megan

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  22. I love that you made the salted butter caramel ice cream, and the dark chocolate ice cream! Those two are on my list for sure! Lovely meal, I bet your friends really enjoyed it!

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  23. I've been hearing so much about Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc fried chicken, this is the best post - by far. It sounds so good and I can't remember the last time I had fried chicken. Thanks for including images of how you prepared the ingredients for the brine. Can't wait to try it! :o)

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  24. I made it to ad hoc on a Monday last year...fried chicken alternates with BBQ on Mondays...but it was a BBQ night. I'm hoping to go back next year and make it for chicken night!! In the meantime, maybe I should take out my ad hoc at home and give this a whirl!! It looks fab...

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  25. The best part of cooking with sharing with others. You've captured that right here. The ice creams sound amazing.

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  26. very nice. good luck on the PFB contest. I'm sure you'll do well. Plus the fried chicken is suchh a teaser :))

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  27. Love it! You've done such a fabulous job of capturing your essence as a food blogger with this one post. And really, extra points for the fried chicken. I'd vote for ya twice if possible :)

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  28. Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday weekend and I agree with your idea of heaven. Good food, good friends, who needs anything more?

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  29. You are the only person who can take regular ingredients and make them look beautiful! I just love your pictures... from raw chicken to fresh herbs! This post is completely mouth watering!!!

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  30. I have never actually made my own fried chicken. You have inspired me make it. You did a great job on your post. (I am still working on my entry) Should be a fun contest and I wish you all the luck!!

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  31. Yes indeed this sounds like heaven! Strangely enough I never used buttermilk (simply because I don't know what that is), your chicken looks fried to perfection and has such a gorgeous color. I wish I was invited to such a Labor Day weekend where the food was that delicious!

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  32. That looks like one happy table, my friend! Great first entry!!!

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  33. Wonderful entry...everything looks delightful :) Good luck with the contest :)

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  34. I never knew Thomas Keller made fried chicken! His pastries are the best. But seems like he can cook up southern food too.

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  35. A great party! The food looks wonderful and those crispy chicken wings look to die for!

    cheers,

    Rosa

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  36. That is some good-lookin' fried chicken. An excellent excuse for a party!

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  37. Beautiful photos. And the chicken...well it gives me the shakes!

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  38. I came to check out the competition and you look strong! Good Luck. GREG

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  39. The Ad Hoc at Home book is at the top of my want list, the chicken looks awesome! Pretty much anything Thomas Keller inspired has to be awesome, right?

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  40. How can you go wrong with Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc fried chicken. It's one of my personal favorites! Have you been to Ad Hoc? It's a wonderful place. And the cookbook is really really cool. Great post and best of luck in PFB!

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  41. Woah. That chicken is fabulous. Good luck in the competition

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  42. Vote just in...! Good luck my dear! - Megan

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  43. Fabulous post, as always. I voted for you! =)

    Good luck!

    Check out my PFB post : http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/503

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  44. Excellent post all around and I love the name of your blog. I voted for you! Good luck in the competition :)

    Shelly

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  45. You had me at fried chicken. Good luck with PFB!

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  46. Jan: Thanks esp for your kind words, and also glad you meet you here enjoying good food! Looking forward to seeing more from you too!

    Ebony: Great to meet you, and scientists rock! :D

    Casey: Thanks for the compliment, I definitely wanted to 'show' not tell with my PFB post so I am glad you appreciated it!

    Maybelle: I will give you some more Parma soon, maybe in the form of some pierogis... Mmm... just thinking about it is making me hungry.

    Rick: Although I have never been there, the fried chicken at Thomas Keller's restaurant Ad Hoc at Home is FAMOUS. You must try it!

    All: Thanks for the generous compliments on my photos, my writing, and esp on that delicious fried chicken. :) Your comments mean the world to me and brighten my day!! Also, thanks SO much for your votes for PFB, and good luck to everyone.

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  47. This looks amazing! I will definitely have to try it this way (with the brining). Great photos and great writing. Thanks for sharing and I voted for you!

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  48. You got my vote. Awesome looking chicken!
    LL

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  49. *No one* can say no to fried chicken, especially Keller's famous Ad Hoc Fried Chicken! What lucky guests at your table! You did a wonderful job, and this was a fantastic entry :) good luck, you have my vote!!!

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  50. I love your pictures! Just voted for you. Good luck!

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  51. Great post, great photos and great recipe! You have my vote, especially since you are a scientist and I work in a nuclear physics lab!

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  52. Voted! What a wonderful entry - I love your photographs and truly enjoyed the story, too.

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  53. a lovely post and beautiful pictures! I voted for you :)

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  54. such good pictures with lovely pictorials thanks forthe virtual treat

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  55. I love fried chicken, it's one of my favorite things to eat. You got my vote, good luck!

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  56. Great story, fried chicken and the little corn holders!
    you have my vote:)

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