Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Free range fried chicken

I like my chicken to be free range, and British too but most definitely free range. I will sometimes overlook this (with a bit of guilt) to enjoy a takeaway but I can't bring myself to buy fried chicken, I think the fact the chicken is the focus of the meal makes it worse somehow. A bit of weird twisted logic there.

So the answer to getting free range fried chicken was to make my own. This is the second time I tried it, and it came out nicely both times so I thought it was time to share.

I should add, the hobs are off in all the pictures before the cooking one, it is just that my kitchen is so tiny I have to use the cold hob tops as workspace.

Big pans of hot oil are dangerous things, and so is raw chicken. Use plenty of care with both.

The herbs and spices I used are listed, you can use any you have/like. These are a little spicy.

1 cup of buttermilk, or 1 cup of milk and the juice of 1 small lemon
Chicken, this recipe will do 4 thighs and 5 legs or the equivalent of any chicken bits you fancy. I chopped breast pieces up the first time.
2 cups flour
2tsp salt (yeah, its a lot, but its not like you eat this everyday)
2 tsp thyme
2tsp basil
2tsp oregano
4tsp ground ginger
4 heaped tsp celery salt
4tsp black pepper
4tsp dry mustard
4 heaped tsp paprika
2 tsp chilli powder
1 egg
1 litre cooking oil

In a jug mix the milk and lemon juice, stir and leave for about five minutes, it will go thick and you will probably see little white flecks in it. This makes a good substitute for buttermilk.

Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk (or above substitute) over. Cover and leave in the fridge to soak for at least two hours, stir once or twice to make sure all the chicken is covered. It can be left overnight in the fridge. 

The chicken should be about room temperature when it is cooked, so take it out of the fridge a little before you want to cook it.
In a large bowl or roasting pan mix the flour, herbs and spices. A whisk is good for this, yeah it sounds odd, but it works.

Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and put it on a plate. Add an egg to the remaining buttermilk and mix well.
Set up a coating station a little like the one below. We have chicken, egg wash, flour coating and a baking tray off to the side for storing the coated chicken.

Dip the buttermilky chicken into the flour, then the egg wash and finally back into the flour. Make sure it gets coated all over at each stage, I found the best way is to drop it in then lift a handful of flour over the top to bury it, then pull it out and gently shake off the excess.

Do all the chicken pieces, putting each one onto a plate or tray to store, try not to let them touch each other or they will stick. I used a lined baking tray with a cooling rack to sit the chicken on.

The chicken will sit happily in its coating for a while, so this is a good time for a quick clear up. Set the litre of oil heating in a large pan or switch on your deep fat fryer. The fryer is the safer option, but I don't have room for one, so I used my fantastic wok. Use appropriate hot oil caution.
When the oil is hot enough to brown a small chunk of bread in 60 seconds carefully put some of the chicken pieces in. Don't overcrowd them, the wok fits three thighs or four legs. Cooking pieces of the same size together is a good idea.
Cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces, I gave these at least 5 minutes on each side then put them on a clean grill tray in the oven at 180 degrees C while I cooked the rest. The final batch out of the oil had ten minutes in the oven while I cooked some wedges.
This does tend to make the oil very dirty as bits of flour fall off during cooking. It is a good one to do right before you change the oil in your fryer.

Enjoy a big plate of fried chicken!

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