I have kind of a funny history with fried chicken. I love it, first off. There are few things that can put me into a Pavlovian-like salivating frenzy like really good fried chicken. One of the things I'm actually most disappointed in with regards to our fair neighborhood has been the abysmal quality of the fried chicken at places like Crown which are open 24 hours. Sure, Ruthie's and Five Spot are much better, but they're not open when I'm coming home in a cab at 2, you know?
Six or seven years ago while I was still in Queens I decided my summer project was going to be getting really good at making fried chicken at home. I was partially inspired by the fried chicken episode of Good Eats, and since I already owned a cast iron pan, that was my frying implement of choice.
This recipe is an amalgamation of lots of different recipes that I've found and adapted over the years. A good part of the recipe comes from a KFC copycat recipe I found a while back along with some extra tidbits I've thrown in as I've played with it. It varies from kind of spicy to very spicy depending on my mood and who I'm cooking for, and in general I aim for the latter. It's a fair amount of work and you will make a mess, but frankly it's worth it. There's nothing quite like like home made fried chicken, and it's always better the next day so don't be afraid of leftovers.
Clinton Hill Foodie Fried Chicken
8-10 lbs of chicken drumsticks and thighs. Make wings and breasts if you want, but they're not my thing when it comes to fried chicken.
2 cups Bisquick. You can just add some baking power to all-purpose flour too.
2 packages Italian dressing mix
2 tbsp tomato soup bouillon
2 tbsp cayenne pepper - adjust for spiciness. Basically add more if needed.
2 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp garlic power
1 tsp onion powder
1 quart low-fat buttermilk
First soak the chicken pieces in buttermilk in sealed plastic containers in the fridge for at least a few hours. Some recipes call for an hour, some call for 12-24 hours. I find you want to have them in there at least 2-3 hours, preferably longer. It doesn't necessarily need to be overnight, though.
Mix the flour/Bisquick and all the spices into a large ziplock bag. Remove each piece of chicken from the buttermilk container and let the buttermilk drizzle off it. You don't want the chicken to have too much liquid or else the excess will just end up globbing up all the flour in the bag. It's going to happen anyway, but you want to mitigate it as much as you can.
Toss each piece of chicken around in the bag until evenly coated with the flour mixture.
I use a cast iron pan and pure vegetable shortening for frying. This will also work just fine with a deep fryer, but since I don't have one I can't help you there. With the pan, heat up a couple of healthy dollops of shortening. You can use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, but I pretty much play it by ear. No, it's not scientific at all, but there's something romantic about treating a vat of hot oil as an art form.
You don't want the oil too hot. In fact, I tend to err on the side of it being too cool, with the heat turned pretty far down. I've found that if the oil is too hot, the chicken cooks far too quickly on the outside and you end up with nicely-browned chicken pieces that are still raw inside. This is a travesty, so do your best to avoid it. Keep the oil relatively cool, and cook the chicken slowly. When one side is browned, turn each piece and finish them off. Each batch takes about 8-10 minutes this way. While cooking one batch, you can batter the next.
When the pieces are done cooking, remove with tongs and set them on a plate covered in a paper towel to soak off excess grease.
While the chicken is great when it's fresh, I think it's even better after being refrigerated overnight, served either cold or re-heated.
So there it is: my recipe. Fried chicken is one of those things where everyone and their mother has their own version, and I have no doubt there will be people who have serious issues with how I make mine. I don't really care, because in the end I had 10 lbs of chicken and it was awesome.