NOTE: Begin preparing brine at least 24 hours (ideally 48) ahead.
Two 2.5 to 3 lb chickens*
Chicken Brine, cold (see below)
*This is on the small side, esp. in most grocery stores. I've found that Whole Foods's very smallest birds usually just make the cut. Otherwise yous might need access to a good Farmer's Market. Smaller birds ensure a proper brine and a good meat to crust ratio.
For Dredging and Frying
Peanut or canola oil for deep frying (Gonna need a lot -- I usually buy it by the gallon at the local Asian market and reuse it a few times.)
1 qt. buttermilk
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 c. all-purpose flour
.25 c. garlic powder
.25 c. onion powder
1 T + 1 t paprika
1 T + 1 t cayenne
1 T + 1 t kosher salt
1 T + 1 t black pepper
Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish
Dutch oven or other heavy pot
Big freakin' stock pot for brining
1. Break down each chicken into 10 parts (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 2 breasts that are then sliced in half). Add to brine, and leave set for EXACTLY 12 hours. Remove, rinse, & dry. (Chicken can be held at this point, refrigerated, for up to 1 day.)
2. 90 minutes before beginning frying, remove chicken from fridge and allow to come to room temp & sort by cut, putting breast pieces into the bottom of a bowl, followed by (in order) wings, drumsticks, & thighs.
3. Fill pot (I use a heavy, cast iron Dutch oven) with AT LEAST 2" oil, BUT NOT MORE than enough to come 1/3 the way up the pot. Heat to 320º. A good thermometer is absolutely necessary. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Combine coating ingredients in a large bowl, then divide between 2 bowls. Pour buttermilk into 3rd bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: 1.) bowl of chicken parts, sorted; 2.) bowl of coating; 3.) bowl of buttermilk; 4.) 2nd bowl of coating; 5.) parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Just before frying, dredge thighs in 1st coating bowl, dip in buttermilk, drain, dip in 2nd bowl, set on parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Add thighs to oil, adjusting heat to maintain 320º temperature. Fry 2 minutes, undisturbed. Then move pieces about, flipping to ensure even frying, another 11-12 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the next cut (in the first case, the drumsticks) to be fried.
7. Transfer cooked thighs to cooling rack, skin side up. Check temp then repeat, first for drumsticks, leaning these on end against the thighs to improve oil drainage.
8. Turn heat up to 340º and coat the breasts and wings. Working in batches, lower these into the oil and fry for 7 minutes. Transfer to rack, skin side up, sprinkle with salt, and allow to rest for 7 minutes. Turn off heat.
9. Arrange chicken on serving platter. Add herb springs to (still hot) oil and allow to fry till crisp, a few seconds. Arrange over chicken. Serve.
Chicken Brine (for 10 lb. of chicken, roughly double what's needed for the chicken recipe)
12 bay leaves
1 bunch (4 oz.) Italian parsley
1 bunch (1 oz.) thyme
1/2 cup clover honey
1 head garlic, halved through equator
1/4 cup black peppercorns
2 cups (10 oz.) Diamond Crystal kosher salt*
2 gallons water
Combine all ingredients in a (very) large pot, cover, bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring to dissolve salt. Remove from heat and chill completely (at least overnight). Brine can be refrigerated up to 3 days.
*If not using Diamond Crystal, weigh another brand to exactly 10 oz.