Thomas Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken

“If there’s a better fried chicken, I haven’t tasted it.”
—Thomas Keller, “Ad Hoc at Home”

No matter how it’s prepared, chicken rarely impresses people who love food. I never make it at home, never order it out and never ever crave it. Chicken. Is. Boring.

I can’t say that making Thomas Keller’s buttermilk fried chicken has changed that for me, but, um, wow — it was phenomenal. Like, I want to use all caps, but I won’t. We made it with a group of friends during winter retreat on Lake Michigan, an annual thing where we drink and eat so much that it makes us do outrageous atone-y things afterward, like go on a cleanse or give up alcohol for a month. Fried chicken fit nicely into the itinerary for the weekend.

Our friend J.R. made the big push to try this recipe, from Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook, which, really, has never failed us. In the first sentence of the recipe, Keller says, “If there’s a better fried chicken, I haven’t tasted it.”

I haven’t tried much fried chicken, but I’m willing to agree. It was incredibly juicy, thanks to a 12-hour brine. And though it obviously bathed in oil, it wasn’t all that greasy. It had so much flavor, and yet no ingredient was overwhelming. Magic chicken!

Following the picture instructions in “Ad Hoc,” we broke down four 3-pound chickens:

In the background, those not directly involved in the chicken-making were drinking bloody Marys and building a model rocket, obviously.

Pieces of chicken move through the dipping station: coating, buttermilk, coating.

When it came time to fry, we realized the pot was too small, as illustrated by J.R.’s “something is going wrong” face…

…but we transferred the hot oil to a bigger pot (so safe! not stressful at all!) and we coasted along from there.

We put the chicken on a rack to let the excess grease drip off, and kept it in a warm oven until all of the pieces were fried. Some of the pieces weren’t cooked through, even though they looked extra crispy and done. A little stint in the oven will help.

On the side: Quick-pickled onions, creamy polenta and kale braised with pork belly and apple cider.

I know, right?

Like many of Keller’s recipes, this was an epic one, and by epic I mean time consuming.

We ate at 10:20 p.m. Partly our fault, partly Keller’s, but fully worth it.

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