Savory Summertime, Here At Last: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I know. I know! You thought it would never happen, didn’t you? You thought that we would be mired in rain and cold and terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days forever, didn’t you. Well, check this: miracle of miracles, the sun has decided to finally make a prolonged appearance in our skies! This has had a few immediate impacts on my life. One, after a weekend spent largely outside I no longer look like a fishbelly. And two: PIC. NIC. TIME. If you know me, you know what picnic time means! Buttermilk fried chicken!

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As so many good recipes do, this one comes to us straight from everyone’s favorite culinary scientist, Alton Brown. He’s kind of like the wacky uncle of the food world, and I bet he’d be a kick in the pants to hang out with. At any rate, his fried chicken sure is! An overnight soak in buttermilk is the extra-special secret, the reason why, no joke, every single person who ate a piece last weekend said some variation on, “My god, how did you make it so tender and moist?” followed immediately by a conversation about how nobody likes the word “moist.” But tender it is, and moist it is, and when you eat it you will even be willing to overlook profligate usage of that particular word.

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The other secret is the dousing of the buttermilk-soaked chicken with a little spice rub. It’s no secret blend of herbs and spices — salt, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne — but it makes it just a little spicy, just a little salty, and a whole lot awesome.

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I also like to take the opportunity to practice my butchering skills; I generally get whole chickens and carve them into their component pieces, but feel free to give yourself a headstart with pre-portioned bits. One thing I do recommend, because it is fun and also because it makes the resulting bits way easier to eat when you’re in a park, is to remove the bone from the thigh, if applicable.

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When you’re frying, you should be able to fit two of each (breasts, thighs, drumsticks) into the pan at the same time. Don’t be afraid to rotate them around a little as you near the end of the frying time — because they’re essentially folded in half, I find it particularly helpful to prop the thighs up on the open side to help seal them shut into delicious little packages of fried chickeny goodness. Ideally when you serve this, all of your friends will have also brought something to share so you shouldn’t have to worry about sides and all that. Just sit back, and enjoy the accolades. And the chicken. Enjoy that, too.

Do you have a favorite picnic recipe? Let us know in the comments!
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