Certain cooking processes are rooted in ritual — a meditative pour-over or the frequent stirring of risotto, for example. The act of making becomes integral to the act of consuming. Sounds and smells found in the kitchen feed into the dining experience. Memories, too.
Published in Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner is a riff on the fried chicken that chef Ashley Christensen’s mother would make for her as a child. The formula is refreshingly simple: Chicken is brined, dipped in buttermilk, dredged in all-purpose flour and fried in vegetable oil. No added spices or clever batter. Instead, Christensen’s fried chicken celebrates ceremony and process, evoking memories along the way.
“Mom would rest the chicken on paper towel–coated plates. It would hit the table just barely warm,” she writes. “This meant the chicken was crunchy but fully rested at the bone. To heat it in the oven before serving would threaten its near-perfect state, so warm over hot was always a compromise worth making.”
Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Hot Honey
3 tablespoons sugar
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
neutral vegetable oil, for frying
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups whole buttermilk
1/2 cup honey
1 clove garlic, crushed
5 small thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
3 dried pequín chiles (or chiles de àrbol)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Combine 6 tablespoons salt, the sugar, and 4 cups water in a large pot and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 4 more cups cold water. Add the chicken pieces. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine, discard the brine, and pat the chicken pieces dry.
2. When you’re ready to fry the chicken, pour enough oil into a large cast iron skillet to come halfway up the sides, and heat until it reaches 325°F on a deep-fry thermometer. Meanwhile, put the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a paper grocery bag, fold closed, and shake to combine. Fill a large bowl with the buttermilk. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Remove the chicken pieces from the brine and pat them dry. Discard the brine. One by one, dip the chicken pieces in the buttermilk, lift to drain the excess back into the bowl, then place in the grocery bag with the flour mixture. When all of the chicken is in the bag, fold the bag closed and shake for about 30 seconds to coat the chicken thoroughly with the flour mixture.
3. Lift the chicken pieces from the bag and shake off the excess flour. Add the pieces to the skillet, making sure not to crowd the pan and adjusting the heat of the oil as necessary to maintain 325°F. Fry the pieces, turning once, until done (155°F on the interior for white meat, 165°F on the interior for dark meat); this will take about 9 minutes for wings and drumsticks, 11 to 12 minutes for thighs and breasts. Transfer the chicken to the lined baking sheet and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
4. While the chicken rests, make the hot honey. Warm the honey, garlic, thyme, rosemary and chiles in a small saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes; the honey will begin to foam slightly. Remove from the heat and add the butter, gently swirling until it’s completely melted. Arrange the chicken on a platter and spoon some of the hot honey and herbs over the top of the chicken. Pass around the remaining honey on the side.
The recipe above comes from Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group. Buy Now: $27