I sometimes add grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and grated lemon zest to the flour mixture. The cheese underlines the nutty flavor you get from frying and the zest brightens the dish. It is delicious without these, too. My family likes it at any temperature and at any time of day, even cold out of the fridge for breakfast.
For years I had been frying the chicken and wondering why mine was never the same as my mother’s. Then when I was home visiting recently, she told me I had been skipping the one real trick to this recipe, which is to soak the chicken in salted ice water for a few hours before cooking. It seasons the meat and tightens the flesh, so the skin crisps better and the seasoning permeates the meat. My mother would put the chicken in the water and chill it while she was at work.
Her other trick is to use good farmers’ market chickens, which taste better and have less fat, so the chicken fries in a film of oil rather than a bath of fat.—Amanda Hesser
3 tablespoons sea salt
8 chicken thighs (organic or natural, not Perdue or somesuch)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1. In the morning, combine 2 tablespoons salt and about a cup of warm water in a large bowl or container. Stir to dissolve the salt. Trim the chicken of excess skin and fat. Add the chicken to the bowl. Cover with very cold water and add a tray of ice cubes. Swish around with your hand to disperse them. Chill in the refrigerator until dinner time.
2. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the chicken from the fridge and pat dry completely with paper towels. Put the butter in a roasting pan large enough to fit the chicken in one layer. Place the pan in the oven. In a 1-gallon freezer bag, pour in the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the pepper. Give it a good shake. Add the chicken pieces two at a time and shake them until thoroughly coated. As you lift them out of the bag, shake them off vigorously. This is vital. You do not want a gummy coating. Line them up on a plate, and repeat with the rest.
3. Lay the chicken pieces in the roasting pan, skin side down, and oven-fry until a chestnut brown and crisp on the bottom, about 40 minutes (sometimes it takes as long as an hour). Don’t flip them until this happens. Use a thin spatula to scrape them up off the pan and turn them; cook the other side the same way. Remove the pieces from the oven as they finish cooking, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Just before serving, grind fresh pepper over top and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Recipe © 2003 Amanda Hesser. All rights reserved.