Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The Brine Challenge, Southern Style - Charcutepalooza Challence #3
Fried chicken is a big deal here in the South. Everyone thinks their grandmother makes the best. They are wrong of course because my grandmama made the best fried chicken in the world :) When the brine challenge was announced i knew right away i wanted to do fried chicken. My wife makes a decent fried chicken so she is the one who cooks it in our house. My goal was to outdo my grandmama god rest her soul.
I started with the best chicken available, a naked neck chicken bred in Alabama to thrive in the challenging conditions of the South. I got it from Little Red Hen Farm, a vendor at the farmers market i manage. They raise their birds on pasture so it had big legs and thighs and a small breast. Uh, yea, moving on. It was a big bird, weighing a little over 5 pounds, too big to fit whole in any suitable container i had so i cut it into pieces. I put the carcass into the stock pot to start simmering while i prepared my brine.
I used Ruhlman's basic brine recipe with a Funny Farm twist. The sweet component was 1/2 cup of rosemary-garlic jam my wife made. I also added bay leaves and some lemons for a little zing. I left the chicken in the brine for 8 hours. Then i removed it and let it dry uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours to develop the pellicle he describes.
I pulled it out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature so it would cook through better. Then i set up my breading station: one bowl with an egg beaten with a little water. another bowl with whole wheat flour, salt and pepper. In the South frying chicken in a cast iron skillet is a must. I got mine out, turned the stove on medium high and melted about 1/2 cup of duck fat, that's right, duck fat in the skillet. While that was heating up i dipped the chicken in the egg and put it in a paper bag, put in some of the flour mixture and shook the bag to thoroughly coat each piece. I cooked the legs and thighs first until the outside was dark and crispy and the internal temperature was 140º. I don't like my chicken over done. Then i cooked the breast pieces and wings.
My mouth was watering like crazy, it is now too as i recall the experience. I eagerly bit into a thigh. Holy cow!!! Crispy on the outside; moist, tender, flavorful on the inside! My wife said it was the best fried chicken she ever ate by far!
Sorry grandmama, I win!