Many of us bloggers wrestle with the amount of time we spend cooking, photographing, writing, and promoting ourselves. Often we arrive at a crossroads- is it worth it? Should I quit? The fact of the matter is, I couldn’t quit if I tried. I would feel like my child had been ripped from my useless arms without this blog.
I worry about not being mainstream enough, but is my content really that esoteric? Then I try to come up with a typical recipe- like fried chicken- but before it’s done, it’s been slapped in the sous vide and smeared in CO2-charged batter because it really does make better fried chicken. I could no more blog about standard apple pie than I could wear jeans to a party; I’m learning to accept it. This “hobby” has become a full-time gig and it’s thankless, often painful (burns, cuts, backaches etc), and lonely (ever feel like you’re shooting a ping pong ball into hyperspace hoping someone will volley it back?), but I love it with a fierceness I’ve never applied to anything besides another person.
You know the sweater you’ve been inadvertently putting on at the end of the day every day for the past two years? Well it’s time to acknowledge that it’s your favorite sweater. It placates a void in your life that no other sweater is capable of filling or you wouldn’t wear it despite it being slightly smelly and dappled with duck fat. For a week you cheated with that Michael Stars “one size fits most,” pink, ¾ sleeve number, but it didn’t feel right. Each of us has a different “sweater.” Yours might be emblazoned with a team name or come in a deep shade of burgundy. Mine is chartreuse mohair with spikes up the spine and I am coming to terms with the fact that it sheaths my personality like a kidskin glove.
With that I’d like to share with you a spine-tingling recipe for fried chicken. I served it with sous vide buttermilk mashed potatoes, sweet creamed corn, and paprika gravy. Good fried chicken starts with an overnight bath in brine. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating- make time to brine. In this case I augmented my brine with Meyer lemons and paprika but stayed true to tradition for the most part, because the real star of the fried chicken is the buttermilk-beer batter and I didn’t want the brine to infuse excessive flavor. After rinsing the chicken, I cooked it to perfection en sous vide.
Taking a cue from Heston Blumenthal, I created the buttermilk-beer batter for the chicken in a soda siphon charged with three CO2 cartridges. Infusing batter with CO2 makes it lighter-than-air with the resulting crust of the fried chicken so effervescent it melts away. Beer and buttermilk are like your two best gay boyfriends; you would never have thought to put them together but when they met on the dance floor of The Cuff at 3am they proved just how ferosh they were all tangled around each other like a tube top on Pamela Anderson’s set of twins. The beer brings aerated crunch to the batter while the buttermilk imparts creamy depth to the overall flavor. They’re a great match- they should DEFINITELY be allowed to get married.
The basic tenets of this recipe are possible to accomplish without a sous vide water bath or a soda siphon. In fact I tried both ways to determine the differences. Because the chicken is brined, straight frying it does not dry it out excessively, even though it is in the fryer for a longer time. The time it takes to cook the chicken through does affect the color of the crust, but I offset this by triple-dipping the chicken pieces, which allows the crust to cool down between dunks in the oil so that it does not burn. I still prefer the succulent texture of the chicken pre-cooked en sous vide, but it is not strictly necessary.
Because the batter has beer in it which is carbonated, it is still very airy. It uses mostly rice flour which lends further lightness. The soda siphon merely guarantees that pillowy texture because it further aerates both the beer and the buttermilk, however if you work quickly, similar batter is possible without the added CO2 charge. It’s a wonderful thing to have tools at your disposal to enable greatness in cookery, but it is equally important to understand how to achieve the fundamentals of those effects without excessive gadgetry. With that being said, feel free to adapt this recipe your liking, your available tools, and your taste.
Buttermilk-Beer Battered Sous Vide Fried Chicken
For the Brine & Chicken:
- 2 liters water
- 120 grams Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 50 grams sugar
- 10 peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 30 grams paprika (I like slightly smoky Spanish paprika- freshness is key)
- 8 bay leaves
- 10 sprigs of thyme
- 10 sprigs of parsley
- Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
- Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
- 4 lb chicken parts ( I use skin-on thighs)
- Bring 1 liter of water to boil along with all other ingredients besides the chicken parts. Stir until salt is dissolved and remove from heat. Add remaining liter of water and chill completely (an ice bath works great if you are in a hurry).
- Place the chicken parts in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and pour in the brine. Seal and put in refrigerator overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse, seal in a food safe plastic bag and cook en sous vide at 165°F for one hour. Quick chill in an ice bath as it is better for succulence to fry chilled chicken.
For the batter:
- 200 grams all purpose flour (make this recipe gluten-free by using all rice flour)
- 200 grams white rice flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 300 ml buttermilk
- 300 ml dark lager beer
- Enough peanut oil to fill the deep-fryer or large, deep pot for stovetop frying.
- Sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the molasses and buttermilk and stir to combine. Quickly add the beer, whisk to remove lumps, and funnel into a soda siphon canister. Shake well. Charge with 3 CO2 cartridges and allow to cool in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (no more than 2 hours).
- Heat either the fryer or a stovetop pan full of oil to 375°F. Working in batches so as not to overwhelm the deep-fryer, spray just enough batter into a deep bowl (set in the sink to prevent mess) as to coat a few pieces of chicken at a time. Quickly lower them into the oil and fry for 2 minutes per side, or until deep golden and crispy. It is important to maintain the temperature of the oil to achieve crispness, so it really is critical not to do large batches of chicken at once. Either store the siphon canister in the refrigerator or in an ice bath between batches so it remains cool.
- I prefer to serve fried chicken with subtly-divergent traditional accompaniments such as creamed corn, sous vide buttermilk mashed potatoes, and paprika gravy.
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 100 grams tomato puree
- 1 liter chicken stock
- 250 ml crème fraiche, at room temperature
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the paprika and stir for one minute. Add the shallot and garlic and stir for an additional minute. Add the tomato puree and cook over low heat for three minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
- 2. In a small bowl, mix the crème fraiche and flour until no lumps remain. Whisk the mixture into the simmering chicken stock. Stir until thickened and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and additional paprika if you wish.