Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley restaurant Ad Hoc offers an daily changing menu of seasonal American cuisine. But at one point they offered fried chicken, and the guests loved it so much that now it's offered regularly. Ad Hoc now features “Fried Chicken Night” every other Monday of the week – apparently it has drawn quite a following for locals and visitors alike!
Here's the recipe that made Ad Hoc's guests' mouths water. Of course, this is a rather involved recipe — more involved than a more basic fried chicken. But as long as we're going to the trouble of frying chicken, we might go ahead and use this recipe. We're sure it's outstandingly delicious.
We also appreciated these general chicken-frying tips from Dave Cruz, the creator of the recipe, and Chef de Cuisine at Ad Hoc:
• Be careful! The oil can spurt as the chicken is added and fried, making this is a perfect recipe to use a splatter screen.
• Place a thermometer in the oil to help monitor the proper cooking temperature.
• It is a good idea to make the brine a day ahead and refrigerate, so that the flavors fuse together fully.
• To avoid the chicken becoming too salty, do not add the chicken to warm brine and do not leave the chicken in the brine longer than the specified time.
Ad Hoc’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Yield: 16 pieces
6 quart sauté pan with splatter screen
Two-2 1/2 pound chickens
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1/2 cup garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
About 1/2 ounce (3 large) rosemary sprigs
About 1/2 ounce (1 large bunch) thyme sprigs
About 2 ounces (1 large bunch) flat leafed parsley sprigs
Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 quart buttermilk
10 cups peanut oil
Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnishing
For the brine: Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using.
Rinse the chickens and place the chickens in the cold brine and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat the chicken dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. With a knife and pair of kitchen shears, cut the chicken up into 8 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast halves and 2 wings.
For the coating: Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl and place the buttermilk in a second container.
Bring the peanut oil to 330˚F in the 6 quart sauté pan.
Just before frying, dip each piece of chicken into the coating, patting off the excess, then into the buttermilk and back into the coating. Place the chicken on a parchment lined sheet tray.
When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of dark meat into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease. Adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature. Fry the dark meat for about 13 minutes, to a deep golden brown, cooked throughout and very crisp. Remove the chicken to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
Carefully add the white meat to the oil and fry for about 6 to 7 minutes until cooked.
Remove to the tray, sprinkle with salt and turn off the heat under the oil.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly.
While the chicken rests, add the herb sprigs to the hot oil and let them cook and crisp for a few minutes. Arrange the chicken on the serving platter and garnish with the fried herb sprigs.