Andrew Zimmern's Irresistible Secret For Zesty Fried Chicken

There's something special about fried chicken. The meat is succulent and tender; the crust is crispy and flavorful. It's the perfect combination of textures and flavors. While many have their favorite recipes and techniques for frying chicken, there's something fun about adding an unexpected ingredient.

The basics of fried chicken are pretty simple. The chicken is seasoned and often times soaked in buttermilk overnight to marinate. Then, the chicken is battered and fried. If you soak the chicken overnight in buttermilk, it's ready to be dredged in flour. If soaking in buttermilk isn't your preferred method, the chicken will need to be dipped in an egg mixture before it hits the flour. 

Regardless of which technique you use, you'll want to season the chicken before it hits the flour, and you'll want to season the flour mixture itself. This is where you can get creative with your flavors. Salt and pepper are an absolute must, and some folks add paprika or cayenne for some smokiness or spice. Andrew Zimmern has another ingredient that he says makes his friend chicken irresistible, and it's probably one you wouldn't guess: dried limes. 

Dried limes will upgrade fried chicken

Andrew Zimmern first encountered dried limes while traveling in India and really fell in love with the ingredient in Syria. Zimmern has shared that the flavor is unique to the cooking culture in the Middle East and northern India, but he's taken it and applied its intensely citrusy flavor to his fried chicken recipe. 

Per Food & Wine, Zimmern uses dried limes in both his buttermilk marinade for the chicken and also in his flour mixture. To use dried limes in your fried chicken recipes, you may want to try a couple of different techniques. To flavor the dredging flour, grate the dried limes on a microplane zester. This way, the dried lime will have a powder-like substance that can easily mix in with the flour so the chicken pieces get a nice coating. 

If you choose to add dried limes to the buttermilk mixture, Zimmern says you can grind them with a mortar and pestle. Dried limes have an intense flavor, so you might want to experiment with a small amount and see how you like it. If the flavor suits you, you can add a bit more.

Why it works

Zimmern has said that the flavor of the dried limes begins as citrus-forward, but then they have a fermented flavor. Others describe them as a bit sour. This tangy, fermented citrus flavor is a nice compliment to the tangy notes of buttermilk, so it pairs well if you add it to a buttermilk marinade for fried chicken. 

More than anything, notes of citrus paired with poultry is a match made in heaven. While using dried limes in fried chicken may not be commonplace, it makes a lot of sense when you consider the flavor profiles. If you've never cooked with them before, start with a smaller amount of the ingredient. If you enjoy the flavors of fermented ingredients, you can be a bit bolder with dried limes.

Dried limes are used in many different Middle Eastern soups, stews, and meat dishes, but you can add them to any dish where you're looking for a tangy, earthy, citrusy zip. Dried limes will last in the pantry for quite a while. But if you want to use less space, you can smash them, remove any seeds, and then grind them in a spice grinder to create a dried lime powder. Experiment with using this ingredient anywhere you'd use other dried spices, such as turmeric, cumin, and paprika.