In New York, fried chicken is having a moment. The fast-food favorite has flown the coop, so to speak, and landed on fine-dining menus across the city. The latest restaurant to devote itself to the bird is Hill Country Chicken, where chef Elizabeth Karmel's perfectly fried poultry takes center stage. Her recipe isn't complicated. She bathes the chicken in a buttermilk marinade, then gives the bird successive dips in seasoned flour and hot oil; precisely heated oil is the secret ingredient for chicken that's burnished, crisp and greaseless. No deep-fry thermometer? Karmel says the oil is ready when a cube of bread begins to brown the moment it's dropped in the pan.
Classic Fried Chicken
Recipe adapted from Elizabeth Karmel, Hill Country Chicken, New York
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes to chill)
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
1 quart (4 cups) buttermilk
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 chicken (about 3½ pounds), cut into eight pieces
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
1. Make the marinade: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and discard the marinade. In a bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and pepper. Place 1 cup of the seasoned flour in a paper bag. Add one piece of chicken and shake until well coated. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken, one piece at a time, adding more seasoned flour to the paper bag as necessary. Let the floured chicken stand for 10 minutes to allow a crust to form.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325º and place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. In a deep cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 inch of oil to 365°. Add the chicken and fry, turning occasionally, until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking sheet and bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 170º, about 5 to 10 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.