Saffron Fried Chicken
Is there anything more satisfying than biting into a salty, flavorful, crisp piece of fried chicken? I know I have a particular weakness for the stuff (umm, it’s my post-workout week splurge) and if I head down to visit my family in Florida, driving by a particular chain that starts with a “P” and has the same name as an old children’s cartoon and NOT hitting the drive-thru is next to impossible. Perfecting fried chicken is not easy, and it’s taken me years, a bit of a fried chicken connoisseur myself, to create a recipe that I’m fully happy with. Of course, leaving it well alone is not an option, so I created my own twist with saffron.
A friend of mine gave me this beautiful gift of Persian saffron that I am treasuring and using sparingly. Saffron is used in a lot of Middle Eastern and South Asian marinades, oftentimes with yoghurt, and it complements the flavor of chicken amazingly. Fried chicken was my perfect reason to break into the saffron stash.
So the reality is that there are a few (worthwhile!) steps here. I marinate the chicken in saffron buttermilk that serves to brine the chicken, make it even juicier, and deeply infuse it with all of the marinade ingredients – a pinch of saffron, garlic, a touch of mustard. I then double dip the chicken to create a super-crisp crust, and let it air-dry while the meat loses its chill. Finally, frying at the perfect temperature ensures fried chicken nirvana – crisp, flavorful, aromatic, tender and juicy. Enjoy!
Yields 3 to 4 servings
1 (3 to 4 lb) broiler / fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Marinade / Brine:
3 cups buttermilk
1 generous pinch saffron
3 cloves garlic
½ tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsps kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsps garlic powder
1 ½ tsps onion powder
1 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
Vegetable shortening or oil for frying
In a small saucepan, heat a ½ cup of the buttermilk until it comes up to a simmer. Add saffron and switch off heat. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
Pour this mixture along with the remaining buttermilk and the rest of the marinade ingredients into a blender and blend on high until smooth. Place chicken in a bowl or casserole dish and cover with the marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours and up to 24.
In a large bowl, paper or plastic bag, combine the crust ingredients thoroughly. Remove chicken from marinade and place in a colander for a few minutes to drain, reserving the marinade. Dredge or shake chicken pieces individually in the flour mixture and place on a wire rack fitted over a baking sheet.
Dip chicken once more in the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Coat again in the flour mixture and place back on the wire rack. Let chicken sit on the rack for an hour to dry / come up to room temperature.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350º F. You actually want to fry the chicken at 325º F for the entire time, but the temperature will drop once you add it in. Place chicken in the hot oil and fry for 13 to 17 minutes making sure the temperature stays at 325º F. I like to take the wings out at 13 minutes , and fry the rest between 15 and 17 minutes depending on the size of the pieces and the type of meat. White meat cooks faster than the dark meat, and fatter pieces will cook slower. If the juices run clear, the chicken is cooked through.
Serve hot! It can be held uncovered in a 250º F oven to stay warm, but it’s preferable to serve immediately.