John Fleer is a thinking man's chef, a onetime doctoral candidate in religion who chucked it all for a career in the kitchen. One of the best ideas to spring from his mind is this brined chicken, which manages to pay tribute to the traditional South of days past and the multicultural South still on the horizon.
8 chicken leg quarters, cut into thighs and drumsticks
1 quart brewed tea, double strength
1 lemon, quartered
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 quart ice water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cornflour (or fish fry)
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon chili powder
Salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
Combine tea, lemon, sugar and salt and simmer for 5 minutes or until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Pour in ice water and cool brine completely. Submerge thighs and drumsticks in brine for 48 hours. Remove to a wire rack and allow chicken to drain.
Combine the 2 cups flour, cornflour, Old Bay, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. In a medium bowl have the 1 cup flour, and in a third bowl beat the 8 eggs with the buttermilk. Line up containers of flour, egg-buttermilk mixture, and flour-cornflour mix in that order. Bread the chicken in the flour, then the egg, and then the flour-cornflour mix, applying pressure to ensure even adherence. Let the chicken sit in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour before frying.
Pour oil into a heavy pot to a depth of at least 3 inches. Heat oil to 300°F. Fry chicken, submerged in oil, for 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F for dark meat, 160°F for white meat. Drain on a rack. Cool to room temperature, and then place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours and no more than 24. Serve cool from a picnic basket or cold, straight from the fridge.
From Fried Chicken, An American Story by John T. Edge (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2004). © 2004 by John T. Edge
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. And, when you donate, you'll become a member of The Splendid Table Co-op. It's a community of like-minded individuals who love good food, good conversation and kitchen companionship. Splendid Table Co-op members will get exclusive content each month and have special opportunities for connecting with The Splendid Table team.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table and you'll be welcomed into The Splendid Table Co-op.