“Fried chicken is chicken reaching its full potential.”- Anonymous. <—- YES. There are few things better in life than really good fried chicken, and definitely very few things better than this lemongrass fried chicken. If we’re making fried chicken in the house, you can find me eating pieces as soon as they’re done, hunched over the trash can like a wild animal. Restaurant life has taught me to eat this way, it’s not my fault. I love fried chicken so much. I love burgers, but if I go to a restaurant and there is a legit looking fried chicken sandwich…99 times out of 100, I’m ordering that chicken sandwich. But, like most things I cook and eat, I’ve got very high standards for fried chicken. The chicken has to be tender and WELL SEASONED. Say it with me. WELL SEASONED. Salt is your friend and that doesn’t mean just seasoning the flour–the chicken has to be marinated in a well seasoned buttermilk marinade. Sorry Paula Deen, my chicken doesn’t take 24 minutes, it takes 24 hours (okay, more like 12 hours, but still).
The beauty of this recipe comes from the delicate lemongrass flavors in the buttermilk marinade and it takes time for that to permeate the chicken. Not only that, but buttermilk contains acids and enzymes that work together to make the chicken tender. Sure, you can rush the process and only marinate it for a few hours, but it really is better if you give it plenty of time to soak. The fried chicken also has to have a thick coating of flour resulting in super crunchy bits on the outside. This means, DOUBLE DIPPING. After you coat the chicken with flour, it gets a dip back into the buttermilk and then a second coating of flour! I like to use a bit of cornstarch mixed in with my flour which helps the outside be extra crispy. I also fry my chicken in peanut oil because it really just is the best for frying. Sorry, to those with allergies–you can absolutely substitute canola oil. It’s also super important to use a frying thermometer. I use a digital thermometer with a probe that serves me for absolutely everything. You can pick up the one I use here.
Now, this fried chicken is delicious solo but holy shit, this spicy condiment that came together by throwing stuff in a pan really takes it over the top. I make my own chili oil (recipe below) and make gobs of it at a time so I’m always looking for ways to use it up. I was trying to recreate some sort of spicy honey drizzle that you sometimes see on southern fried chicken and what I ended up with was something that I want to put on absolutely everything. Garlicky, gingery, sweet and spicy. It really hits all the flavor notes and makes this fried chicken truly memorable.
Tips for frying: don’t fill your pot too full of oil, there should be at least 3 inches of room left at the top so use an appropriate sized pot as the oil swells when food is added to it. Make sure to keep steady heat under your pot so that the oil doesn’t drop too far in temperature when you add your chicken. Don’t try to fry too many things at once–3-4 pieces MAX per batch. Cover your pot while frying, this helps keep the heat up–keep your thermometer handy so you can make sure that the oil doesn’t get too hot.
Now, go forth and fry like a pro! And stuff your face with this delicious chicken.
LEMONGRASS FRIED CHICKEN:
6 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
3 cups buttermilk
4 stalks lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed and discarded*
4 red or green thai chilies, optional*
2 Tablespoons fish sauce*
2 kaffir lime leaves*
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
peanut oil, for frying (or canola)
2 Tablespoons chili oil with chili flake (store bought or recipe below)*
2 Tablespoons honey
1 bunch green onions, sliced (white and light green parts kept separate from dark green parts)
1 Tablespoon grated ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
flaky salt, for sprinkling
*these specialty ingredients can be found in most asian markets and some well-stocked grocery stores.
1. Chop lemongrass stalks into small rounds. In a blender, combine buttermilk, lemongrass, kaffir lime, thai chilies, fish salt and salt. Blend until very smooth. Place chicken in a gallon ziplock bag (or 2 depending on size of chicken pieces), and cover with lemongrass buttermilk. I like to put my ziplock inside a baking dish in the fridge just in case there is a leak. Refrigerate overnight.
2. To make spicy condiment: add chili oil to a small saute pan or pot over medium heat. Add white and light green parts of green onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add honey, ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 more minutes, just until garlic is no longer raw. Set aside.
3. Bring your chicken out of the fridge and let sit for 2-3 hours before frying. Heat 3 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot or a high sided cast iron skillet, to 360 degrees F, initially. The plan is to keep the heat around 325 while frying because adding chicken to the oil will cool it down. Start at 360, add chicken, the heat will drop to around 325. Preheat an oven to 250 degrees F and place a cooling rack inside of a sheet tray. Place the sheet tray in the oven, this is for keeping pieces of chicken warm while the rest continue frying.
4. Mix flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a shallow dish, something like a baking dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk and place in the flour, taking care to coat the chicken well. Piece by piece, return the floured chicken back to the buttermilk, and then back to the flour once more to create a nice, thick coating. Set on a baking sheet until ready to fry.
5. In batches of 3-4 pieces, gently add chicken to oil. Keep your oil over a medium-high flame as the temperature will drop when you add chicken to the pot. Fry for 10-12 minutes, turning chicken over at the halfway mark, or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees F inside the chicken. Transfer chicken to baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Allow oil to come back up to temperature before frying more chicken. Repeat until all chicken has been fried. Drizzle spicy condiment over chicken and sprinkle with flaky salt and the remaining sliced green onion. Stuff your face.
makes 1 pint
1 cup crushed red chili flake
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
2 cups neutral oil, such as canola, avocado, vegetable, etc.
1. Preheat an oven to 250 degrees F. On a sheet tray lined with foil, mix chili flake and ginger until well combined. Toast in the oven for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Transfer toasted chili flake to a small pot and cover with oil. Simmer over the lowest heat setting for 1 hour until dark in color. Cool to room temperature, place in an airtight container (mason jars work well) and keep in the fridge for up to 1 year.