Without a doubt, the thing I miss most about all the time I’ve spent in New York is the fried chicken.
My obsession developed about three years ago, on a visit to Sweet Chick on Bedford Ave in Brooklyn. It’s a restaurant devoted to fried chicken (PRAISES!!), and ever since that first meal I’ve returned every trip to devour their fried chicken, maple syrup, waffles and shoestring fries. So freaking good.
This year the chicken fascination grew with an NYC dive bar introduction to dollar buffalo wings, blue cheese sauce and beer. I tell you, you don’t know heaven until you’ve sat at a bar stool with buffalo sauce round your chops and a pile of bones at your fingers: it’s messy, it’s disgusting, it’s AMAZING.
But when I returned home I found it really hard to find a decent take on proper New York fried chicken, buffalo-style. London offers a few acceptable options but Milton Keynes, my home town, is a finger-licking fried chicken wasteland.
London-wise, in my opinion the monkey fingers at Meat Liqor are pretty unsurpassed: so good I’ve had actual dreams about them. Then of course you have the incredible Chick ‘n Sours who do an exemplary chicken burger – both American and K-Style. Street food-wise, Motherclucker can’t be beat.
A little more nationwide is Byron, who offer pretty decent hot wings and blue cheese sauce as well as their Clucky which is a solid 7/10 chicken burger. But I can’t run out to a restaurant each time my fried chicken itch needs scratching, which is why I had to come up with a foolproof recipe for myself at home.
You guys, I think I’m pretty much there.
This is my most-requested recipe on Instagram, the thing that gets the most ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ when I share it. This is the absolute peak of foolproof fried chicken recipes, and I promise if you follow all the steps below you really won’t go wrong. Plus, it’s mega easy.
Firstly, you can always buy buttermilk from the supermarket but I never do. Instead I squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl of milk and stir: voila! Instant buttermilk. The chicken should marinade in here for an hour at least, but obviously the longer the better.
For this recipe (and most chicken recipes) I always use thigh, and either cut into strips (chicken tenders) or leave whole (for a chicken burger). I find the meat here much more tender and flavourful over the breast.
And don’t be scared of the deep-frying! I use 2-3 inches of oil and it’s really not scary. Just make sure you’re there to supervise the entire time and there aren’t any children running around underfoot.
Don’t worry too much about the measurements for the batter below – this is definitely more of a ‘chuck it in and see what looks right’ kind of recipe.
One of the best things about this recipe is how it holds up the next day. I always make a huge batch and then re-heat the leftovers within 48 hours: 15 minutes at 180 will bring you beautifully crisp chicken that tastes like it’s just been cooked! If you need proof for how tasty it is, just ask Elfie…
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
For the chicken:
4-6 Chicken thighs
2 cups self-raising flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs (I use oregano and thyme)
1 teaspoon paprika
A few grinds of pepper
2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan (you might need to top this up as you go)
Approx. 400ml of buttermilk, or milk and the juice of a lemon
Half a pack of dolcelatte cheese (or another blue cheese – don’t use the good stuff though, you want it sticky and pungent ;)
90g Philadelphia cheese (you can use the light version if you’re feeling saintly)
200g soured cream
The juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt
Frank’s hot buffalo sauce
Celery and carrot, or other salad (I like iceberg lettuce)
1. Start by marinating the meat in your buttermilk, either in strips for chicken tenders or as a whole thigh if you’re making burgers. Stick in the fridge until you’re ready for it
2. Pre-heat your oven to 80 degrees C. In a big bowl, mix your flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried mixed herbs, paprika. Into this spoon about 2 tablespoons of your buttermilk mixture, to form something of a batter.
3. Pop your oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on the hob to heat (there should be 2-3 inches to just about cover the chicken). You don’t want it too hot or the batter will cook before the meat: mine’s an induction hob and I use setting number 7, so three-quarters of the way to the highest heat.
4. Remove your chicken from the buttermilk mix and, using your hands, mix in the flour. Push the batter well into the meat, making sure it’s covered all over.
5. Using tongs, pop your chicken in the oil, making sure there’s enough room for it to cook comfortably without touching other bits of chicken. You’ll probably need to do this in batches.
6. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen roll before popping in your oven to keep warm.
7. Repeat until you’ve done the entire batch.
8. Meanwhile, make your blue cheese sauce by mixing all cheeses, sour cream and lemon juice together. Chop your carrots and celery (this is how they serve it in the states and the veg cuts through the heaviness of the meat and the sauce beautifully.
Alternatively, pop your fried chicken in a toasted brioche bun with iceberg, mayo, pickles and hot sauce: HEAVENLY.