“There is something soulful about a cast-iron skillet…” - Elizabeth A. Karmel, chef of Hill Country BBQ and Hill Country Chicken
Elizabeth Karmel, North Carolina native and executive chef of Hill Country Chicken in New York City, serves her fried chicken with spicy honey. “The hot pepper honey is a variation on the theme of one of my Southern staples, hot pepper jelly. It elevates the chicken, adding a fiery sweetness that captures the best of Southern fried chicken in one bite!” says Elizabeth. You can also melt down hot pepper jelly for the same effect.
HOT PEPPER HONEY (recipe follows)
SOUTHERN BUTTERMILK BRINE (recipe follows)
1 (4-POUND) WHOLE CHICKEN, CUT INTO 8 PIECES
2 1/2 CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1 TABLESPOON KOSHER SALT
2 TEASPOONS COARSELY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
2 TEASPOONS GRANULATED GARLIC
2 TEASPOONS ONION POWDER
2 TEASPOONS SMOKED SPANISH PAPRIKA
1 QUART PEANUT OIL
HOT PEPPER HONEY
Makes about 1 ¼ cups
1/4 CUP FAVORITE FRUITY HOT SAUCE, PREFERABLY HABANERO
1 TO 2 GENEROUS TEASPOONS RED PEPPER FLAKES, TO YOUR TASTE
PINCH OF FINE SEA SALT
1 CUP BEST-QUALITY HONEY
SOUTHERN BUTTERMILK BRINE
Makes about 2 Quarts
3 CUPS HOT WATER
1 CUP KOSHER SALT
1 CUP FIRMLY PACKED DARK BROWN SUGAR
2 TABLESPOONS DRIED ROSEMARY OR 3 LARGE SPRIGS FRESH ROSEMARY
1 GENEROUS TEASPOON CRACKED BLACK PEPPERCORNS
2 GENEROUS CUPS ICE CUBES
4 CUPS COLD BUTTERMILK
1 TEASPOON CAYENNE PEPPER
- Prepare the hot pepper honey: In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together well. Taste and adjust the level of hear to your liking. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. This gets better after it stands for a couple of days. It will keep for up to a week. Stir before using.
- Prepare the brine: In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water, salt, sugar, rosemary, and peppercorns to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Stir and let steep and cool for 15 minutes. Add the ice cubes, buttermilk and cayenne. Whisk well.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry and remove excess fat. Place the chicken in a heavy-duty brining bag or a nonreactive food-safe container with a lid. Pour the brine on the chicken, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. The smaller pieces will take less time and the larger pieces will take more time. DO NOT OVER_BRINE or the chicken will be too salty.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the seasoned flour ingredients together.
- Remove the chicken from the brine; drain off the excess liquid. Coat evenly in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Let stand for 5 minutes, then coat again with the seasoned flour; and let stand another 5 minutes before frying.
- Pour enough oil in a Lodge 5-quart cast iron chicken fryer to reach 1/2 inch up the side. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. You may have to adjust the heat level under the pot to maintain a study temperature.
- Immediately place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot oil and cover the pot. Once you see that the bottoms of the chicken pieces are golden brown and the tops are beginning to cook, about 10 minutes, turn the chicken over. Place the lid back on the pot and fry for another 5 minutes or so. You can remove the lid when the chicken is almost done to crisp up the skin. Cook a total of 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Remember; turn only once, and larger pieces may take longer. The chicken should deb cooked all the way to the bone. Note: It may help to place the thighs in the middle of the skillet with the oil is the hotter and surround them with the breasts, legs and wings.
- Drain the chicken on a wire rack set on a baking sheet, and place in a low oven (250 to 300 degrees) until ready to serve. Serve with the Hot Pepper Honey on the side.
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