Friday, February 12, 2010

Buttermilk-brined, not just soaked, fried chicken

The more and more that I've been thinking, the more I've come to believe that fried chicken, mac and cheese, and biscuits is my favorite meal. I've been obsessed with fried chicken lately, more specifically Popeye's spicy fried chicken. It's consistently crispy and sufficiently spicy for fast food and though Popeye's mac and cheese is sub-par, their biscuits are delicious. It's amazing! I can have my favorite meal for 5 bucks!

Popeye's chicken is delicious espiecially when you have that fast food craving, but the chicken itself doesn't actually have much flavor. I've found that the Popeye's chicken without the crisp exterior isn't worth eating. That just isn't right. I sought to make it right in my home kitchen.

I was excited to test out an idea I had been pondering for a while. Does soaking chicken in buttermilk really do anything other than coat the outside in buttermilk? Can buttermilk really penetrate the exterior? I wasn't so sure. I think of it like soaking chicken in water. The water won't diffuse into the chicken unless it's a brine. Why not make a buttermilk brine to really instill that tangy buttermilk flavor in the meat?

I made a 7 percent salt, 5 percent sugar (honey) brine steeped with thyme, peppercorns and garlic. I used half buttermilk and half water. I used water to steep the ingredients then poured in the buttermilk when it had cooled. I then placed the chicken in the brine for 12 hours.

To fry the chicken, I resorted to David Chang of Momofuku's method. He steams the chicken then fries it at a high temperature for a short period of time. To try for some extra crispness I coated my chicken in flour and then a double layer of breadcrumbs (and even that didnt provide enough crisp). I'll have to try coating them in Panko and/or any other methods for maximum cirspness, but that's another post.

The chicken was overall a success. It was very tasty and had a definite twang that only buttermilk could provide. I wasn't sad when the crisp exterior was gone because the chicken inside was so moist and flavorful. I definitely plan to do the buttermilk brine agin.

The method however, is still in question. I want the crust to shatter, not bend when I bite into it. Another thing--I don't like eating the chicken skin with friedn chicken. It just gets mushy and off-putting under the crisp crust. I'll take that off for next time.

Also to come, experiments with biscuits.


Shaina S. said...

Instead of the breadcrumbs, try mixing a few T buttermilk with flour to create a sort of lumpy coating which I think will have the texture you're looking for, once fried.

matt74 said...

awesome Nick..check my wings out..marinated in buttermilk and frank's..then smoked till the fat rendered then fried for a shellac crispness..

Jodie said...

Maybe you had too thick of a coating of "crust"? It struck me when you said "shatter", so I began thinking of it like glass...perhaps the thickness was too much and too resistant. Just a thought!

I love your blog! Just wanted to say so. And I think you're adorable!

Anonymous said...

Alot can be said for the lactic acid in buttermilk. It does wonders on proteins, without question. You should be looking at different types of buttermilk, though. There's alot out there and their profiles are profound. You should be sending emails to Shola, Alex, and Aki. They've done some work with lactic acid and they're always willin' to lend a hand...

You're close to hittin' the right notes that you're lookin' for, but you need more time in your kitchen. Keep puttin' in the work. You're already doing MORE than most 17 year old guys are doin'.

Your blog is a good read, bud.

Cheers from Chicago.

trev 3/18.

Cali said...

I don't think you're ever going to achieve a "shattering" crust with bread or panko crumbs. I think you'll need to create a semi-batter by dipping in seasoned flour then buttermilk and then seasoned flour again. I'm also wondering why the steaming rather than cooking sous vide? I would think cooking sous vide, cooling and removing the skin and then the semi-battering method described above would make for perfectly fried chicken. Moist and tender on the inside and shatteringly crisp on the outside.

I wouldn't change a thing about the buttermilk brine. I've been trying to figure out how to do exactly that for a while. Except I'd been coming from the wrong direction. Don't forget to let us know how it comes out.

Oh, and I totally share the love for Popeye's chicken and biscuits! (And I have to drive 70 miles to get it!)

Susan O. said...

You'll definitely need to use a batter as opposed to a crumb coating. It will be a totally different texture. I'm willing to bet Popeye's is using a batter.

For biscuits, use more fat than you think, leave the fat in pea sized chunks, not meal like, and for heaven's sake don't think about using anything other than White Lily flower.

Tim said...

One thing I love about the "Bon Ton" recipe featured in Gourmet/epicurious is the coating.

You take the chicken out of the brine, and without rinsing or drying it, you dredge it in the seasoned flour. Then you let it sit for 10 minutes. The liquid on the chicken permeates the flour coating, resulting in a "batter" that fries up super-crispy.

James said...

'fried chicken, mac and cheese, and biscuits' - real chefs food.

What would bicarb soda do to the coating? What about soda bread crumbs?

Bruna said...

could give us some vegetarians receipes ? i'll be glad with it - you've got a brazilian reader !

Chandrika said...

Try mixture of all purpose flour and corn flour for super crisp exterior.

Teddy77 said...

Try 1 cup flour, 1 cup corn starch, 2 tsp baking powder and season to taste. Add 1 3/4 cups water, or just until like pancake batter. When you season use paprika for good color. 325 to 350 for 12 to 15 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Hello Foodie

I love that you did the buttermilk brine. I was planning on doing the same thing the next time I did chicken.
I want to let you know that when going for the crisp crust you want to pull the meat out of the brine, let it drip a bit, press it in the flour, put it on a rack for about ten minutes to dry, and then into the hot oil.

I do not know about the steaming method you talk about, but I cook my chicken til brown on one side and then turn the chicken and cover the pan. Regulating the temperature of course.

Truly great fried chicken comes with trial and error and not from a recipe.

Have fun!
professional chef
southern food lover

Anonymous said...

Cornstarch is the secret for very crispy coating. I use 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch per cup of flour used to coat. You might get the outcome you are looking for if you coat your chicken twice in seasoned flour. Maybe try dipping the chicken in seasoned flour, then egg wash,then the panko crumbs.