Fried chicken is probably one of my favorite warm weather dinners, especially since it pairs so nicely with things like onion rings, fries, and iced tea – all summer time favorites in my house. Delicious, satisfying, and easy enough to make once you’ve got it down, this is one recipe that I wholeheartedly recommend you add to your kitchen repertoire.
That said, the heart of today’s recipe comes from Junior’s Cookbook, the ‘book of secrets’ to the beloved Brooklyn eatery that’s famous for its cheesecake. If you can’t check them out in person, I highly recommend their cookbook. The recipes are easy to prepare and easy to love, my favorite kind of cookbook. It features such family favorites as today’s fried chicken, as well as how-to behind the cheesecake that started it all.
Ingredient Notes, Tips, and Substitutions
1) The Flour – All-Purpose vs Cake Flour vs Bread Flour; What’s the Difference? We want the crust of today’s chicken to be thick and clingy as opposed to light and flaky, however we don’t want it to become ‘hard.’ That means we want all purpose flour. However, what’s the difference between these flours? And why would one flour result in a crust that more or less flakes off of the chicken, while another would form an unpleasantly ‘hard’ crust, while another produce a pleasant middle ground between the two? In a word – protein. To understand this, let’s begin with all-purpose flour and work our way down…and up…from there, since all-purpose flour is – as we’ve already said – a midpoint between the three. All-purpose flour has been processed and ground down until only the starchy endosperm of the original wheat grain remains. This has the effect of ‘standardizing’ all-purpose flour to around 9-10% protein content. By contrast cake flour contains no more than 8% protein, while bread flour sits at a comparatively hefty 11-13%. This might not seem like a big difference, but consider that the less protein flour contains the ‘lighter’ and less dense the resulting baked good is. By contrast, the more protein flour has, the more ‘chew’ and ‘body’ a baked good will have. Not only that, but flour requires protein to produce gluten, and gluten is what gives dough the ‘stringy bits’ that make the dough elastic enough to knead. Thus, for a light and airy pastry, cake flour is the order of the day. For an excellently textured pizza dough, bread flour will give the best results.
2) Whole Milk is a Must. We want the ‘fat’ from the whole milk in the batter, since this fat will help to bind together the dry ingredients. Also, that same fat lends the crust a fair bit of flavor and texture. By contrast, less fatty milk will lead to the coating having a difficult time holding together, since it will be too watery. For best results, you might even consider adding a few tablespoons of heavy cream to the milk.
3) Cooking Oil. Plain vegetable oil is fine for today’s purposes, since we’re using it purely to fry the chicken in. The rule of thumb is this – olive oil gives superior flavor and health benefits, but ‘only’ when cooking at lower temperatures of no more than around 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or when barbecuing over ‘gentle’ flames. Use vegetable oil for pretty much everything else. The reason is that most olive oils have a relatively low ‘smoke point,’ which is the temperature at which the olive oil begins to burn away, giving your food a rancid taste and sapping its nutrients. Curiously, the lower the quality your olive oil, the ‘higher’ its smoke point. In fact, ‘Light’ olive oil actually has a higher smoke point than vegetable oil, while Extra Virgin Cold Pressed olive oil will start to burn away at merely a ‘low simmer.’
Preparation Notes and Tips
1) Works for Cutlets, Strips, and Pieces. While I’m using chicken strips, today’s recipe works great with whole cutlets, as well as any combination of chicken pieces – legs, thighs, wings, it all works fine.
Tip: You can also use today’s batter to fry up vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, or onion rings.
2) The Cajun Seasoning. Cajun seasoning should be hot and smoky, and just a touch earthy. Most Cajun seasonings on the market (along with most recipes you’ll find online) are some combination of paprika, garlic powder, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and white pepper. You might also find thyme and onion powder thrown into some. In the recipe below, I added cumin, chili powder, and coriander to mine, and left out the white pepper. I did this simply because I thought that would go nicely with the ‘heavier’ texture of the crust in today’s recipe – and it did. So, is what I made still Cajun seasoning? Probably…? Then again, it doesn’t matter, it’s simply delicious.
3) Frothy Eggs – What You’re Looking For. You want a thick layer of bubbles covering the top of the beaten eggs. You do ‘not’ want the eggs to stiffen and form peaks. You just want a uniform layer of ‘froth’ on top of the eggs. This layer of froth may evaporate by the time you’ve mixed and added in the dry ingredients – that is fine. You don’t need to rewhip them.
4) Coating the chicken ‘will’ be messy. I’m just putting this in as a warning, the heavier batter ‘does’ make for a slightly messy time of the breading process. This is fine, just learn to love it.
Today’s Fried Chicken Pairs Great With
1) Onion Rings. I love the combo of fried onion rings and fried chicken. I prepare my onion rings with just a hint of spice, and a thick, dense batter that crisps up beautifully during frying. You can grab my recipe here.
2) Buffalo Dipping Sauce. I’m of the opinion that buffalo sauce is severely ‘typecast,’ since I believe it often gets overlooked when it’s not in it’s ‘chicken wing incarnation.’ For a quick and easy buffalo dipping sauce, which would pair great with today’s fried chicken, give this recipe a try.
3) A Cold Drink. While fried chicken and tall beer are a match made in heaven, if you want to flavor things up a bit and play ‘bartender’ to yourself or your guests, our friends over at DrinkWorks have got you covered. Think of it as the “Keurig of Home Bars,” simply pop a pod into the machine, and out comes a delicious, chilled ‘adult beverage’ (no ice required) that tastes like it was mixed by a master mixologist. With dozens upon dozens of drink pod flavors to choose from, including Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Moscow Mule, Whiskey Sour, White Russian, and Old Fashioned, among many others, there’s something for everyone.
4) Pickled Sweet Potato Salad. My absolute favorite way to eat sweet potatoes, this salad is sweet, crunchy, just tad acidic, and refreshing. As a plus, letting it sit a night or two in the fridge only enhances the flavors, meaning its perfect for making ahead.
5) Coleslaw. My preferred recipe for coleslaw combines the obligatory mayo-coating with a citrusy dressing. For a nice kick, I slice in jalapenos with the cabbage to create a sweet-and-spicy salad, with just a hint of crisp citrus.