How Thomas Keller Makes Ad Hoc's Famous Fried Chicken Unique

One of the most celebrated chefs in the U.S. if not the world, Thomas Keller is known for his Michelin stars and elegant, sophisticated dishes punctuated with vivid flavors. Fine Dining Lovers lists some of his most iconic dishes, from the caviar and shellfish celebration that is Oysters and Pearls to his truffle-infused hen egg custard whimsically served in an egg shell.

But Keller also has reverence for simple, iconic dishes and flavor combinations that are timeless and emotionally evocative. Here he lets his craft shine through, delivering honed versions of classics or his own imaginative version. Take, for instance, his version of Coffee and Doughnuts, which features a buttery, old-fashioned doughnut alongside coffee semifreddo, or his hearty roast chicken.

Speaking of chicken, Keller has another soul-satisfying take on yardbird that screams Americana. The fried chicken served at his unfussy outpost, Ad Hoc, is one of the most anticipated dishes on the rotating, family-style menu, per Food & Wine. Thankfully, Keller freely shares his recipe, whose success is contingent on quality ingredients and precise technique.

Brining brings the flavor

Food & Wine details the preparation for Keller's fried chicken, a dish that is both juicy and crisp with a surprising, but welcome brightness. It begins with two chickens soaked in a brine that is infused with honey, bay leaves, garlic, herbs, and the juice and potent zest of two lemons. After the overnight bath, the chickens are broken down, slathered in rich buttermilk, dusted in flour flavored with garlic and onion powders and cayenne, and fried in vegetable oil.

The result is such that one diner, writing on Trip Advisor, said that the "chicken was so moist and tender that I wasn't sure whether I was eating white meat or dark." Another Trip Advisor reviewer thought it had "the perfect ratio of crunch to succulent juicy meat."

One of the key steps in Keller's recipe is the brining, which serves two purposes. As he explains on MasterClass, the brining process – specifically the wet-brining called for in the fried chicken recipe – pulls salt, water, and whatever seasonings are added to the brine into the meat. This renders it not just moist but flavored throughout. Keller's all-purpose chicken brine is very similar to the one noted in the fried chicken recipe, so you get a good idea of what works well with poultry. Dry-brining is also good for chicken but should be reserved for preparations where crisp skin is desired as it doesn't pull in added moisture.