How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Monday, August 28, 2017

Buttermilk Sriracha Brine

NOTE: This recipe is fairly easy, but not quick. Start at least 8 hours ahead of serving, or even the night before.

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews is a recent purchase that is rapidly becoming a favorite at our quasi-beach house. A quick search on this blog will show some of the things we have already tried. Andrews finds a nice balance between food that is festive and food that can be prepared without too much fuss. This is just what we wanted yesterday for a dinner with friends we had not seen in a long time and their new baby. (NOTE: We did not try to feed chicken to the baby!)

The recipe we chose is for fried chicken, which I have made hundreds of times using an approach that is quite similar to what Andrews describes. But her recipe includes just a couple of departures from my routine that made this so much better!
The first three ingredients make the brine. A milk brine sounds disgusting, and looks even worse, but I set aside my qualms and just rinsed the chicken pieces and covered them with the brine. I used a full quart because I had more than the called-for chicken. Regular readers will know that Tabasco is one of my favorite beverages, but this time I used sriracha. I did not stop at a teaspoon, though: I gave a couple good overhand squirts, turning the brine a rather ugly pink.

The recipe calls for brining in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. I think I had it in for 5 hours before it was time to start preparations. At that time, I blended all of the dry ingredients, using a couple of overhand shakes of Old Bay (one of our guests being from Maryland) instead of a wimpy teaspoon of poultry seasoning.

Using our indispensible kitchen tongs, I removed each piece from the brine, rolled it in the flour-breadcrumb mix, and placed it on a platter. I gratefully rinsed the brine down the drain!

Here Andrews calls for resting the chicken on wire cooling racks over a lined baking sheet. We did not have racks in this kitchen, so the platter sufficed. The racks would prevent the chicken sitting in puddles of brine, but draining each piece carefully prevented this. An interesting step that I had never heard of was simply to let the chicken rest for a half hour after it has been coated, allowing it to reach room temperature before frying. I decided this was worth trying.

Our beach-house kitchen has an electric stove, and the cast-iron skillet we have here is not large enough to have worked well for this much chicken. So I put a serving platter in the oven at 300F, and then heated some olive oil (maybe a half cup) in a wide skillet until it was medium-hot. I put one round of chicken in until it was darkened on the bottom, and turned it over. I covered the chicken during most of the cooking process to promote more even heating, though I removed the cover (very carefully) a few times to let moisture out.
Photo: Ashley Harris
In this way, I cooked the chicken in a total of three rounds, gradually lowering the heat and adding oil as necessary. When our guests arrived, I had just put the last pieces in the oven, where they continued to heat gently while we had appetizers and fancy beverages, perhaps 30-40 minutes. Because the chicken was in pieces of various sizes, including a couple that were quite thick, I think that this time in the warm oven contributed to the success of this dish. It was tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and savory throughout. It went well with local corn-on-the-cob, local tomato-cucumber salad, and not-local Malbec.

We concluded that in the future, when choosing between pan-fried and oven-fried, the correct answer is: BOTH!
Corn silks: one per kernel.

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