I’m pretty sure that the people in my life are getting tired of fried chicken. Holiday with the relatives? Fried chicken. Casual Sunday family supper? Fried chicken. Bon voyage cocktail party? Fried chicken…on skewers. If you want to know, it didn’t happen all at once. It never does.
I blame the first stage on Thomas Keller’s justifiably lauded recipe from Ad Hoc, his Lemon-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken, with which I shared a heated romance. I honestly thought it’d last – but no. “I’m sorry Mr. Alpenglow,” the note on a greasy napkin read, “but things are getting stale. We should go our own ways.”
The second stage was basically an experiment with Curry Fried Chicken. I’d marinate the chicken in wet curry, dip it in dry curry-seasoned flour, into buttermilk, then the curry-seasoned flour again. Then I’d do it again and again, each time with one slight variation. This got good reviews.
With this recipe, I sense that a third stage has dawned upon us all. Since fried chicken obviously isn’t indulgent enough, this stage had to be positively sybaritic. It’s an orgy of peppers. Three peppers go into the flour: smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, and chili powder. It’s drizzled with cumin chili butter and served with an intoxicating Romesco aioli made with roasted red peppers, almonds, and garlic. At this point, there’s no use reasoning. You either get it or you don’t.
SPANISH FRIED CHICKEN with ROMESCO AIOLI & CHILE BUTTER
for the fried chicken, recipe by Suzanne Goin of AOC in Los Angeles:
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into strips
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
½ teaspoon toasted ground coriander
3 cloves of pounded garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 additional tablespoons smoked paprika
2-3 quarts canola oil for frying
Marinate the chicken for 3 hours with the paprika, Aleppo pepper, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt, and pepper. Then pour the buttermilk over the chicken and let this chill for 3 hours. (If you don’t have time, feel free to cut out the waiting time) Stir together the flour, cayenne, and additional paprika. Dredge the chicken in the spiced flour. Heat the oil in a heavy deep pot (leaving 5-6 inches at the top) to 350 degrees over medium heat. Shake excess flour from the chicken and gently drop them into the ho oil. Cook the chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes, and drain on paper towels. If they are browning too quickly, remove them from the oil and reduce heat, or finish cooking them through in a 350 degree oven. Drain the chicken on paper towels. Serve immediately with romesco aioli and sizzling chile butter (optional).
for the Romesco aioli, recipe by Mario Batali:
6 egg yolks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
a pinch of red chili flakes
1/3 cup of slivered almonds
4 jarred roasted red peppers
a squeeze of lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup reserved bacon fat (optional)
Combine all the ingredients except the oil and fat in a food processor until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil and fat.
for the chile butter:
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted
chili powder to taste
Heat the chile powder and butter on a medium flave or microwave until bubbling. Mix well before drizzling over the chicken.