People who know me well will know that I’m incurably suspicious of chicken.
Not the actual live birds themselves – chooks are lovely and I want half a dozen of the fluffy-butt variety when I get my dream farm in Cornwall – but the meat.
I’ve had enough horrendous food poisoning experiences (including an inflight meal from an airline who shall remain nameless, a burger from a fast-food joint who shall remain nameless, and a notorious night out in Dublin) that just about the only time I eat it these days is Mum’s roast chicken.
But American-style crispy fried chicken has been something on my cooking bucket list for some time now, so I gave it a whirl last week (reasoning that if I prepared it myself and it took a bath in some molten hot oil, I had a good chance of avoiding any unpleasantness).
This recipe comes from Sneh Roy, the talented Australian cook and food photographer behind Cook Republic.
If you love beautiful food imagery and wholesome recipes, you must check out her website. Sneh is a big photographic inspiration of mine, and her unique take on fried chicken includes quinoa in the crispy coating – a smashing buttermilk fried chicken recipe with a hipster twist!
Quinoa in the flour coating adds great crunch, contrasting beautifully with the tender, moist chicken on the inside.
And of course - if we’re talking street food from the deep South, then coleslaw is a state requirement.
When it comes to deep-frying, use an oil with a high smoke point such as sunflower, peanut or rice bran oil. The smoke point is the temperature at which the fat begins to smoke, a sign that the fat is breaking down.
This interesting article fromDIY Natural explains the importance of temperature in minimising the amount of fat absorbed when deep-frying. By ensuring the optimal oil temperature between 180°C and 190°C (350°F – 375°F), food submerged in the oil almost instantly form a surface seal that the fat cannot penetrate. That seal locks existing moisture inside, letting it steam and cook the food from the inside out.
When the oil temperature is too low, the seal takes longer to form, letting more fat seep into food and making the whole frying process take longer. If the oil temperature is too high, food will dry out and potentially burn.
chicken 8 chicken thighs, skin on 2 cups buttermilk 2 tbsp tabasco hot sauce 1 cup plain flour 2 tsp sea salt 1 tsp cajun spice 1 tsp coriander 2 tbsp garlic powder 1 tbsp onion powder 1 tbsp smoked paprika 1 tbsp cumin 1 cup cooked quinoa 3 litres oil, for deep frying (I used rice bran oil)
coleslaw 2 cups white cabbage 2 cups red cabbage 1 pear, coarsely grated 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon 2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal ½ cup greek yoghurt ¾ cup mayonnaise 1 tbsp dijon mustard juice from 1 lemon
Divide each chicken thigh in two – leaving the bone in one half – so you end up with 16 pieces.
Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl, and pour over the buttermilk and hot sauce. Massage the buttermilk mixture into the chicken using your fingertips. Cover with cling wrap and leave to brine in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours (ideally, leave overnight to allow the buttermilk to really tenderise the meat).
Place a wire rack over a large baking tray and remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk, placing them on the rack to drain the excess liquid.
In a large bowl add all the ingredients for the coating and mix thoroughly to combine. Place each drained chicken piece in the mixture, turning several times and working over the meat so that every crevice is coated.
At this point, turn your oven on 160°C (320°F) so that you can keep each batch of fried chicken warm whilst finishing the rest.
In a large high-sided saucepan or fryer, heat the oil for deep-frying on high. Watch the oil carefully and when it starts to smoke, reduce the heat to medium and gently lower a few chicken pieces in the hot oil. Be careful to slide them in gently to avoid hot oil splashes.
Cook the chicken for approximately 6 – 8 minutes, turning with a slotted spoon every now and then to ensure even frying. When the pieces are golden brown, remove from hot oil with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack over a baking tray (I find this more effective for draining the oil than paper towels). Place in the oven to keep warm.
Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, adjusting the heat if required.
To make the coleslaw, place the cabbage, pear, tarragon and spring onions in a large bowl. For the dressing, mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over the coleslaw, tossing gently through.
Serve with the fried chicken and your favourite dipping sauces.
Fried chicken can be kept warm in the oven on low heat until ready to serve. If preparing ahead, warm the fried chicken in the oven at 160°C (320°F) for about 5 – 6 minutes to crisp up.