The short version of the post: I made the MCAH fried chicken and the Science of Good Cooking double-fried french fries. Both worked out, it was delicious, I’d do it again.
The long version of this post:
In what seemed like a good idea at the time, after deep frying the steaks last night, D said, “hey, with that leftover oil, we should make some fried chicken & fries”. I was looking at the oil, thinking, “how am I going to get rid of this stuff?” and as soon as the words came out of her mouth, I was like “of course – chicken and fries, why didn’t I think of that?”. I now know why I didn’t think of that as I write this, on the sofa, 2 hours post-meal, distended belly, oil malaise, asking myself “what was I thinking?”
But here’s how it all went down:
I again used Modernist Cuisine at Home for its fried chicken recipe – basically, just sous vide cooking some bone-in chicken thighs at 149 degrees F for an hour and a half, then dredging the chicken in a 50/50 mix of Wondra (pre-cooked flour) and potato starch with some added salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for 3 minutes in hot oil at 385 degrees F, and you’re good to go. Basically, as easy and no-muss, no-fuss as the steak recipe, with a 1-minute added step of dredging in the flour/starch mixture.
The chicken was basically perfect. Incredibly soft and moist on the inside, with a ridiculously crisp crust on the outside – the crust didn’t fall off, it stuck to the skin perfectly, it wasn’t too thick, and it turned plain chicken into something special.
What would I do next time? Well, I found the crust perfect in texture, appearance, mouth feel, etc – but it didn’t have the colonel’s 11 herbs and spices – I think next time I’d add some other seasonings (than salt & pepper) to the flour mixture to punch up the flavour a bit. That being said, simple fried chicken with good fleur de sel (as in the first photo above), is its own special treat.
On to the fries: The whole problem here was that I forgot what making french fries was like. It’s easy, mindless work, and the Cook’s Illustrated recipe is excellent, and if you obey it and use a thermometer – it’s fail-safe, and the fries were definitely delicious. I just forgot that it involves you standing over a pot of boiling oil for about 30-45 minutes, which is one of the least pleasant places to be in any kitchen.
The recipe was like this:
– take some russet potatoes, slice them into fries (I use a mandoline, which saves a ton of time), and soak in cold water until the water is clear.
– dry the fries, add some corn starch, toss the fries to coat, and leave them for 20 minutes
– double fry the fries, first in oil at 325 degrees F, then at 350 degrees F
And how were they? they were great. Literally perfect french fries, as good as you’ve ever had. The corn starch gives the fries a little extra crunchiness/texture that takes them from being good to being great, and again, the thermapen was handy for keeping the temperatures in the desired range.
Would I change anything about this recipe? Maybe I’d cook them at 360 or even 370 (Bouchon cooks first at 320 and second at 375) for the second frying, but this gives you a much smaller margin of error – at 375 degrees, the fries brown up in less than a minute, and burn all too easily. And instead of the thermapen, I’d get some kind of temperature probe that had the fast response & accuracy of the thermapen, but that I could clip to the edge of the pot. The last candy/oil thermometer I had was encased in glass and broke, and the $15 digital ‘instant read but not really’ thermometers have a half life in my kitchen drawers of about 2 weeks.
But that’s it – the riddle of how to get moist fried chicken is solved – just sous vide it first! And for french fries, just add a little corn starch, use some lightly used oil, double-fry, and keep an eye on those temperatures.