Spiced Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Cornish Game Hen (either 1/2 or a whole per person, depending on the appetite and the sides!)
Buttermilk (enough to submerge the chicken entirely, a quart will usually cover two broken down chickens)
Salt and Pepper
All Purpose Flour
Fine Sea Salt
Special Equipment: A deep fryer set to 290F and a cooling rack over a half sheet pan
Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Mix the butter milk with salt, fresh ground pepper, smoked paprika (enough to give the milk a mild red color, or more if you like) and a good pinch of cayenne pepper to taste. The longer the chicken marinades, the better. You can leave it like this for up to 24 hours, but even a couple hours will do.
Break down the cornish game hens by cutting off the wings first. The wings are not prepared for frying and are better used for stock. I roast the bodies and the wings and prepare a dark chicken stock out of them, which I then use for gravy. Reduce and thicken your stock with cornstarch, season it, add some fine herbs (parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon) to finish.
Cut the chicken into six parts: the breasts (with the remaining bones from the wings, which helps add flavor and moisture) with the tenders attached, the legs, and the thighs. Place chicken directly into the marinade.
While the chicken marinades, prepare a dredging flour. Season the flour with salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper, just like the marinade. The flour should have basically the same color as the marinade. I encourage you to actually taste the flour (but small amounts). If it doesn't taste salty or smokey or peppery, add more to your desired tastes.
I also prepare a paprika sea salt by mixing a small amount of paprika with sea salt. Go light on the paprika!
Prepare your deep fryer to 290F. Remove the chicken directly from the marinade into your dredging flour. Make sure the chicken is completely covered with the flour and shake off any excess. Drop the chicken into the fryer with the basket already submerged. Shake the basket sternly to make sure the chicken doesn't stick. Be extremely careful, as oil can splash and cause significant burns.
The chicken is your guide to whether or not it is cooked. As long as your oil stays at 290F relatively well, it will float and be a beautiful dark golden brown when it's finished, around 7 minutes. If you're unsure how done the chicken is, try a tester, or let it cook for a minute more.
Pull the chicken out of the fryer and immediately place over the cooling rack on the half sheet pan. Season with a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt. Once the chicken is plated, I recommend finishing it with the smoked paprika sea salt.
Pairs Well With
The best fried chicken I've ever had is at the restaurant I work at. In this recipe, I share a few of the tricks we use to make our fried chicken stand out.
The smaller the chicken, the easier it is to cook perfectly. This recipe requires you to butcher your own chickens, so get your boning knife ready! Please always practice safe sanitation practices, especially something like chicken.
This recipe is best coupled with a waffle or a potato side of your choice (mashed, roasted, insert french word "here"), braised greens and certainly a gravy.
I always finish this chicken with fleur de sel that is seasoned with smoked paprika. Grilled lemons are also a great addition to squeeze over the chicken.