Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Ad Hoc At Home)

One of my favorite restaurants is Ad Hoc in Yountville, CA, and to understand a little bit about my love for the place, click here to read about it in previous post.

One of the best things about the restaurant is their daily changing menu written around what is available that day - literally from farm to table. Each morning, Ad Hoc posts the menu for that evenings meal on their website, plus you can sign up to receive the menu via email. Though the daily menus change with vegetables and proteins, it has become a tradition that on Monday nights that they feature one of their most popular meals: Buttermilk Fried Chicken. And, the Monday reservations are sold out in minutes.

I have had a few friends lucky enough to land one of these coveted Monday reservations, and some of their overly-descriptive memories of the experience have included: "the best meal I have ever eaten" and "how do they get the chicken so moist" and "Thomas Keller is a Fried Chicken God".

Thomas Keller, the man known specifically for his restaurant, The French Laundry, who is also known as one of the best chefs in America, who is also known for his insanely provocative tasting menu, and who is also known for all things fine dining...is ALSO known for his Fried Chicken?

Of course, this begs, TRY ME PLEASE.

I needed to figure out how to get up to Napa to enjoy this amazing meal, but on a Monday?

And then, I bought Thomas Keller's cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, and lucky for me, as I flipped through the first few pages I came across this recipe in the poultry section:


Picture of Buttermilk Fried Chicken from the Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook
I have been waiting to try this recipe out for about a year, and I finally got my chance last week. It was a true test to see if my "Ad Hoc at Home" fried chicken could come even slightly close to my friends comments of "Ad Hoc's" restaurant chicken.

And, before you get to the bottom of this post, let me just say, IT DID. This is the most tender and tasty fried chicken I have ever had, mostly due in part to the chicken brine step that infuses moisture and flavor to the chicken in a relatively short period of time. The combination of dry ingredients coating the chicken, layered with the buttermilk and another roll in the dry coating leaves the crust smoky and salty but extra crunchy. A quick deep-fry in oil and a finishing roast in the oven leaves this incredible fried chicken leftover-less - as all of the chicken was devoured on site.

In the words of Thomas Keller, taken straight from Ad Hoc At Home:

"If there's a better fried chicken, I haven't tasted it."

Well said, Mr. Keller. Well said.

(Recipe taken and adapted from Ad Hoc At Home Cookbook)

(I have reduced the original amounts of ingredients from the original recipes for the amount of chicken I used, plus I have added one step in the cooking process; after deep frying the chicken, I placed all chicken in the oven to roast as they were not cooked all of the way through, plus this just made the skin even more crispy and yummy - would suggest using my recipe below, or follow along with the real recipe from the book)

Chicken Brine

3 lemons, quartered
12 bay leaves
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1/4 c honey
1 small head of garlic, halved through the middle
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 C kosher salt
1 gallon water

Add all ingredients to a large pot; cover; bring to a boil and stir to dissolve salt and honey, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool completely before using.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

5-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, cut in half
2-4 drumsticks
2-4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 x chicken brine recipe (above)

3 C AP flour
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Peanut or Canola oil for deep frying
1 quart buttermilk
kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Additional gadgets: meat thermometer (to test chicken doneness) and candy thermometer (to measure oil temperature)

Breasts halved and drumsticks ready for a submerge in the chicken brine
Add all of the chicken pieces to a large pot or plastic bag and cover with cooled chicken brine; place in refrigerator for up to and no more than 12 hours (I only brined for 6 and it was fabulous).

Chicken brining with the solution - if you brine over 12 hours, the chicken will be too salty.
Remove chicken from brine and pat dry - allow to come to room temperature (about 25 minutes) before beginning to fry.

Make the dry coating combining the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper using a whisk.

Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large pot, heat enough peanut or canola oil so that the oil comes up about 2" high; attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pan (as in the pic below) and heat oil to 320F (we will be cooking the drumsticks and the thighs first.

Meanwhile, place all combined dry ingredients in a large pyrex and the buttermilk in another pyrex, setting up a "breading station".

The dry ingredients, buttermilk, and oil heating on stove ready for fried chicken goodness (oh and of course a glass of Rose in the background is most important)

Start with the drumsticks and begin to roll them in the dry ingredients, coating thoroughly and patting lightly to dust off any excess flour.

Then, add the chicken to the buttermilk for a quick coat of liquid.

Then return back to the dry ingredients for a quick last coating; remove chicken from dry ingredients and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Ready to fry!
When the oil reaches 320F, add the chicken drumsticks and thighs, 1-2 pieces at a time, carefully monitoring the heat and adjusting the temperature as needed (note: the second the chicken hits the oil, the temperature is going to drop - so you will need to turn the heat up and then watch that it doesn't exceed 320F). Fry for 2 minutes and then turn pieces over in oil using tongs to get a crisp, thorough, golden-brown fry on the outside, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oil and place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Set aside.

Drumstick frying - note the level of oil in the pan relative to size of pan - you want a larger pot for frying to prevent any oil spilling over during frying process.

Once done with the drumsticks and thighs, raise heat of oil to 340F and begin to add chicken breast pieces, about 2-3 pieces at a time, and repeat procedure as with the drumsticks and thighs. Cook to a golden brown, about 7-9 minutes, and remove from oil and place on same sheet pan with thighs and drumsticks.

Once all chicken has been fried, place that sheet pan in the preheated oven until the chicken breasts register about 160F when a meat thermometer is inserted (170F for the drumsticks and thighs), roughly 15 minutes (may be longer). Remove chicken from oven and tent with foil lightly and all chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

The BEST fried chicken coming out of the final roasting in the oven.
And there you have it, folks - the tried-and-true tested Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Worth every second of preparation, and worth every last bite off the bone. It may be a while before I find myself in Napa on a Monday night, sitting down over a glass of wine at Ad Hoc to enjoy their fine fried chicken meal, but at least Thomas Keller shared his recipe, allowing all of us at home to enjoy one of his yummiest creations.

1 comment:

  1. I am definitely going to add this to my recipe book! I LOVE fried chicken but it's nearly impossible to find anywhere that sells fried organic or air-chilled chicken... With this recipe I can do it myself... or make my hubby do it! Haha!

    Thanks for sharing!!! =)

    <3 MuffinLovesBiscuit