January 15, 2014

Fried Chicken Sliders with Pimenton Aioli

Fried Chicken Slider with Pimenton Aioli

Fried chicken and I have history - troubled history. A few years ago I fried huge quantities of it to take to a dinner party at my mom's house. It looked great and I was already basking in the compliments and appreciation I would receive until they cut into it and it was...pink. Not "do you think that's a little pink" pink but rather translucent fleshy pink that made me recall that plane crash in the alps movie where they have to eat their teammates. Of course, once it's at that point there isn't much you can do to save it. Stick it in the oven, but then your crust is gone. And no one will trust your food for a very long time. Or should they. 

The only frying I've done since then is shallow pan frying which is delightful and creates a nice crust, but different from fried chicken, which is to say deep-fried chicken, which produces a bumpy, bubbly all-over crunchy crust. Why don't more restaurants in Minneapolis make a perfect fried chicken or am I just too busy driving my kids around in my grimy car wearing my grubby winter boots to notice? Maybe because good fried chicken is REALLY DIFFICULT to make (I'm vindicated!)? Or maybe because it's so stinking why-waste-my-culinary-skills-on-it easy, that no one wants to bother? Yep, that's probably the one.



The will to try another fried chicken recipe came from an article I saw in the weekend Wall Street Journal (great food coverage) I was reading as I sat in the chalet at our local ski resort that moonlights as a big hill in the summer. It sounded so good, spicy and crisp, so I warily gathered my thermometer, oil and heavy pan and set up my dredging station. Perfect mise-en-place, utter fail. Despite an oil temperature reading of 300º (per the WSJ recipe) my chicken cooked way too fast and the crust was bitter mahogany brown in about 5 minutes. The internal temp of my meat was about 140º (illsville).

Deflated, I posted a picture of my sad chicken on our local food blogger site asking for help, and help came in the form of links to successful recipes, questions and suggestions about temps and par cooking (sousvide and a buttermilk poach anyone?) One of the links led me to a message board with an old question regarding thermometers. Turns out you need to submerge the little stick in at least an inch or so of oil to get an accurate reading. I had only had 1/2 inch of oil in my pan (always trying to make things healthier, which in this case was misguided because the chicken hardly absorbs any oil....if it's at the right temp). I should have known something was up when my temp shot up after I put my chicken in (causing the oil to rise).

Bolstered by the support of kind cooks and good information I tried it again the next day and was rewarded with crunchy, flavorful and non greasy fried chicken.  The crust is smoky and lightly spicy and the chicken is moist and tasty. Perfect on it's own or with a bit of spicy aioli and slaw in a slider.








Lessons learned:
  1. Submerge your thermometer in at least 1 inch of oil or spoon oil up the shaft to get an accurate reading. Temperature is everything when frying chicken. 
  2. Use plenty of oil - you get most of it back. Really! If you fry at the right temp, the chicken won't absorb much of it. 
  3. Make sure the chicken is dry so the breading can stick. 
  4. Season the flour, not the chicken (everyone seems to agree on this). 
  5. Eat it immediately after frying for best crunch or warm on a rack set over a sheet pan if you must wait.

Fried Chicken Sliders with Pimenton Aioli


Serves 4

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pimenton/smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon hot sauce
5 cups canola oil (1 inch up sides of pan)
Pimenton aioli (recipe follows)
Shredded red cabbage
Pickles
Soft white buns

1. Place oil in large heavy-bottomed pan ( I used a 4 quart dutch oven) and heat on medium heat to 325º.  It should be at a depth of about 1 inch.

2. Whisk flour, salt, pimenton, cumin and black pepper together in a large shallow bowl.

3. Whisk buttermilk and hot sauce together in another large shallow bowl

4. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels

5. Working with one thigh at a time 1. pass through flour (shake off excess), 2. then buttermilk (let excess drip off) 3. then back through flour. Set on a plate and continue with remaining thighs.

6. Gently place chicken into hot oil a few pieces at a time to avoid overcrowding. Fry for about 6 minutes then flip and cook for another 6. Watch the temperature and try to keep the oil between 300 and 325. Drain on a paper bag or paper towel lined plate. Serve on it's own or with buns, aioli, shredded cabbage and pickles slider-style.

Pimenton Aioli

1/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

1. Whisk all ingredients together. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use.


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