I have a confession to make. Until last night, I have never made fried chicken. I have a friend who was shocked and horrified to learn this. So I decided to remedy the situation by making Michael Ruhlman’s Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Chicken. Twas but a happy coincidence that it was also included in Food52’s Genius Recipes and so I could include it as a part of my semi-stalled Genius Recipes Project. (Yeah, I decided a few years ago to cook my way through that book. I didn’t set myself a deadline so I’ve been ambling through it at a… leisurely pace.)
The verdict? It was damn fine chicken. It got raves from the table. My conundrum? It was an awful lot of work for something I didn’t particularly enjoy making or eating. Several people told me that the best part of the deal is making a pan gravy with a bit of drippings and the leftover crispy bits, so that’s what I did. Served it over mashers and everything was good to go!
Note: the original recipe did call for a combination of thighs, drums, and wings. I just bought a big package of chicken thighs and called it a day! Also, please note that I goofed and didn’t make the brine exactly as written in the original recipe. It came out fine but, should you attempt this recipe yourself, here’s the original. I rewrote the recipe below as I made it.
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 6 branches rosemary, each 4 to 5 inches long
- 4-1/2 cups water
- 1 lemon, halved
- 12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 cups buttermilk
- Neutral, high-heat oil for deep-frying (like canola)
- In a large bowl, combined the onion, garlic, rosemary, water, and salt. Squeeze the lemon into the water and toss the lemon in too. Stir until salt is dissolved.
- Put the chicken pieces in a large, sturdy plastic bag. (Or bags.) You may find it helpful to set the bag in a large bowl for support. Pour the brine and aromatics over the chicken and seal the bag so that as much air is removed as possible. Refrigerate 24 hours, massaging the bag periodically to redistribute the chicken and the brine.
- Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Set on a rack or paper towels in the fridge to help dry out the skin. I did this for 24 hours but I think the result left the skin a bit tough. Next time, I'll do it for 8 hours or so.
- Combine the flour, black pepper, paprika, sea salt, cayenne, and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Combine this mixture between two bowls. Set a rack on a baking sheet.
- Using an assembly line process, dredge the chicken in the first bowl of flour and shake off excess. Dip the chicken in the buttermilk. Dredge it 'aggressively' in the second bowl of flour and place on the rack.
- Heat oil in a deep pan or dutch oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees Celsius. Add as many pieces as you can without crowding the pan, turning occasionally. Allow to cook 13-15 minutes, depending on their size. Remove to a clean rack and allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Ruhlman mentions that he likes to finish them in a 250 degrees F/120 degrees Celsius oven. This worked out fabulously for me. The chicken stayed beautifully crisp and kept warm. They were cooked perfectly.