Culinarily speaking there are few things in life that can't be improved with the help of a bit of deep-fat frying. Perhaps even shoe leather could be made edible, but I'm quite content leaving that thought in the realm of “theory vs. practice.”
In any case, I digress. I'm here today to talk about fried chicken. It's a dish that is so common, so ubiquitous that it's available on every street corner and at every grocery store deli counter. There are so many bad versions of it that it's easy to forget the sheer genius of a plump piece of chicken rolled in perfectly seasoned flour, dipped in egg wash and deep fried to a glorious, golden brown, all crispy on the outside with a crust that gives way to succulent, juicy meat inside.
Admittedly, even I hadn't given much thought to fried chicken lately, even though it was a staple in my home growing up. That is to say, until I stumbled upon this recipe for Tyler Florence's Ultimate Fried Chicken. It was the picture that first grabbed my attention. I'm a card-carrying sucker for good food porn and was drawn in by the gorgeous pile of freshly-fried chicken with the beautiful bunch of deep fried herbs and garlic cloves perched on top, and scattered about with lemon wedges. Lemon and chicken, absolutely! Lemon and fried chicken? Nice! Intrigued, I dove into the recipe and soon found out that the aromatics were heated slowly, along with the oil, gently perfuming it with their essential oils and removed just before frying the chicken itself. The result: a piece of chicken that is delicately flavored with the herb and garlic essence and the crispiest, most flavorful skin you’ve ever tasted. Made better only by the suggestion of a scattering of sea salt and a spritz of fresh lemon to give it some edge. GENIUS!
Fried herbs. Fried Chicken!
The Ulitmate Fried Chicken
1 (3½ pound) chicken, cut into 10 pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
1 gallon peanut or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
¼ bunch of fresh thyme
3 big sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ bunch of fresh sage
2 fresh bay leaves
½ head of garlic, smashed, husks still attached
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sea salt & freshly cracked black pepper
4 large eggs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving
Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. Put them in a large bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over them, turning the chicken so that the lemon gets all through. Let it marinate while you heat the oil.
Pour the oil into a large pasta pot. Add the herbs and the garlic and heat over medium-high heat until the oil registers 375 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer.
Meanwhile, put the flour in a large, shallow dish and season generously with salt and pepper. Be sure to taste the flour mixture, you should be able to taste the salt and pepper. Crack the eggs into a large, shallow dish; add a drizzle of olive oil and a couple tablespoons of water and whisk together.
When the oil reaches 375 degrees skim off the herbs and garlic and reserve. Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess, then dunk them in the egg wash. Carefully drop the chicken into the hot oil and cook for about 20 minutes, turning it with tongs every now and then to keep the color even until it’s cooked through. Keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust the heat to keep the temperature as even as possible.
When the chicken is done, sprinkle it with salt and a dusting of black pepper. Scatter the reserved herbs and garlic over the top. Serve hot, with big lemon wedges spritzed over .