Tuesday, October 27, 2009

World's Best Oven Fried Chicken - Butter Baste

Here is a cooking technique for the most awesome Fried Chicken without all the trouble, mess, labor intensity, and variability of quality finish that normal deep or pan frying involves. In fact, the coup de grace of the technique is a single, easy butter baste of the chicken in the last 10 minutes of the baking - it is YUM.

The preparation of the chicken is critical to world class chicken in any recipe. This oven fried chicken technique will be really great with straight out of the plastic wrap supermarket chicken pieces but not in the same class as the following Thomas Keller Ad Hoc Restaurant preparation technique. Three Days (or combine day 1 and 2 by starting early for a 2 day chicken) Elapsed for perfection. If you can't make the time go straight to the dredge and cook with skin on supermarket chicken pieces and it will still be really good.

Day 1
Step 1: Make brine and bring it to room temperature or lower:
Step 2: Buy and cut up whole chickens make Chicken stock from bones

Day 2
Step 3: Brine the chickens and reduce the chicken stock from 2 gallons to 1 cup
Step 4: Air dry the chicken pieces in the fridge overnight

Day 3
Step 5: Bring chicken to room temperature - dredge in flour mixture and buttermilk
Step 6: Bake and baste till perfect
Step 7: Serve and enjoy

Buy 2 whole, organic chickens - the smaller the better - under 4 lbs if possible. That day, wash them under the tap thoroughly and cut into 10 pieces each: 2 boneless breasts each cut in half, 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 legs. Take the remaining carcass, wing tips, neck bones and make a chicken stock for the gravy.

Brine the 20 pieces of chicken in the following brine for 6 to no more than 12 hours (too salty if brined longer).

Brine recipe:
1 gallon cold water
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
8 large or 12 small bay leaves1
head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns not ground
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
3 small lemons cut in half
6 cloves of garlic cut in half

Preparation of brine: Brining
Combine 1 cup of water and all other ingredients including lemon rinds in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to combine all ingredients. Remove from heat to cool. To brining container add the birds (2 chickens cut into pieces, the 3 quarts of cold water, and the now cooled (can be fairly warm) contents of the saucepan. Make sure chicken is completely submerged. Refrigerate overnight -up to 12 hours.

Preparation for cooking: Tempering
After brining time is up drain and discard all liquid, wash off the chicken pieces under the tap, get rid of any herbs, etc sticking to bird. Use paper towels to dry and then refrigerate on a baking sheet overnight uncovered (or lightly covered with a dry kitchen towel). at least 2 and preferably 3 hours before cooking take out of fridge. You want the chicken at room temperature before it goes in the oven. It WILL NOT GO BAD - the salt and acid in the brine has totally sanitized the bird and even if unbrined it would not go bad rising to room temp over a couple of hours in any case. This is an important step to have tender moist chicken that is cooked thru properly.

Dredging and coating:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cups buttermilk
In a food processor combine the dry ingredients thoroughly. Divide the dry mix evenly between a paper or plastic bag and a bowl. shake the chicken pieces in the bag to coat well with the mixture. Shake off excess. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture bowl, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to 2 baking sheet s(rimmed to contain grease or make a rim from foil) lined with oiled (to prevent sticking) aluminum foil - skin side up. On one sheet put the breasts and wings on the other the legs and thighs.


melt 1 (or more if needed) stick of butter for basting and divide between 2 small bowls.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
When the oven is hot put the baking sheet with the thighs and legs on the rack in the top 3rd of the oven. After 15 minutes put the sheet with the breasts on the rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Open oven pull out each rack and baste the chicken pieces with half the butter. Raise oven temperature to 450 degrees - close the door and cook for 10 minutes until golden brown. Test internal temperature of thighs with in instant read thermometer - should be at least 160 (to 175) degrees in thickest part when done. Depending on your oven, internal temp should be well below that so you can turn the chicken over individually and baste the other side with the other half of the butter and cook for about 10 minutes till brown. check temperature often as it nears 170. If internal temp is not high enough but skin is crisp and brown turn off oven, turn the chicken skin side up, but leave chicken in for another few minutes (up to 15 or 20) to heat through without over-browning and drying out. Let chicken rest on counter, skin side up under more foil while making gravy.

Make Chicken Gravy:
Take your cup of greatly reduced chicken stock and put in a saucepan with 1 pint of heavy cream and salt and pepper to taste. Heat to boil and boil down by half to about 1 and a half cups.

To Serve:
Let chicken rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes after coming out of oven.
Serve with whatever sides you have prepared and pass the gravy for a light drizzle.

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