Culinary superstar Missy Robbins has a collection of recipes out that will renew your love of jazzed-up home cooking. All these dishes are accessible and prefaced by anecdotes by Robbins that will delight you and pump you up for some awesome culinary projects. This polenta-crusted fried chicken will blow your go-to recipe out of the water.
Fried chicken is pure indulgence and joy, which is also how I would characterize the memory of when this recipe was born. During a laid-back and spontaneous afternoon hanging out with my then-neighbor, now business partner, Sean, we turned on the TV and saw that the esteemed chef, Sean Brock, happened to be making fried chicken on a show. This made us both really hungry and sent us immediately to the store to buy ingredients and make our own fried chicken dinner. This an ode to chef Sean, because his southern techniques are tried and true, but I deviate a little by adding my own flavors. I think he might approve because the result is still sweet, spicy, crunchy, and tender — all the things you want in a crispy bird.
Brining and Marinating
- 1 gallon water
- 1 1/4 cups kosher salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 5 green tea bags
- 1 whole chicken, broken down into 6 to 8 pieces
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cup finely ground polenta
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons finely ground chili flakes
- 3 tablespoons finely ground fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2-3 cups canola oil
- 2-3 cups olive oil
- 2-3 cups chicken schmaltz
- kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fennel pollen, for dusting
- 1 tablespoon ground chili flakes, for dusting
For the brine
Bring the water, salt, sugar, and honey to a boil. Add tea bags, turn the heat off, and let the tea steep for 10–15 minutes.
Cool the brine mixture down in an ice bath. Once cold, submerge the chicken parts, making sure they are fully covered. The chicken should sit in the brine for 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Discard brine.
Cover the chicken with buttermilk and let sit for another 30 minutes.
For the fried chicken
Combine all the dry dredging ingredients in a bowl.
Remove one of the chicken pieces from the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run off before dredging it in the seasoned flour and polenta mix. Once coated transfer it to a sheet tray lined with parchment. Repeat until all the chicken is dredged and coated. Leave the sheet tray in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. If you’re in a pinch, leave the chicken in the fridge for several hours.
Sift the remaining flour mix to get rid of any clumps and reserve it for just before frying.
Once the chicken has rested, dip each piece of chicken into the remaining buttermilk and dredge in the leftover seasoned flour for a second time — this time a very light coat. Set aside.
Put an equal amount of the oils and chicken fat in a large heavy-bottomed cast-iron pan. (How much you need depends on whether you have a 12- or 15-inch pan; just be sure not to fill it so high that the fat will bubble over.) Slowly heat the fat to 350ºF, using a thermometer to gauge.
Carefully add the chicken pieces skin side down, individually, so that they are in one layer in the pan. You may have to fry in batches depending on the size of your pan.
Depending on the sizes of your pieces, cooking times will vary. Fry each for approximately 8–10 minutes, or until it starts to get crispy and golden. Then use tongs to turn each piece over and repeat until it is completely cooked through. If it starts to get a little too dark, turn the oil down to 325ºF.
Transfer the chicken from the pan to a sheet pan or plate lined with paper towels to drain. Season with a dusting of salt, fennel pollen, and chili flakes.