You know we love fried chicken here, but I don't always feel like doing the actual frying, so sometimes I go the oven-fried route. Last night I used a recipe I'd been meaning to try for a while—well, you can't really call it a recipe, more like a technique. It came out excellent. My only slight complaint was that it was a wee bit salty, even though I decreased the amount of salt called for in the flour used for dredging. And we really like salty, so that's saying something. Wait! It just occurred to me that she called for sea salt and I used table salt; perhaps she meant coarse sea salt, which would have meant considerably less salt. Yes, now I'm sure that's the case! Whoops. Kosher salt would probably be fine too.
I found this at Leite's Culinaria, where I find so many of my favorite recipes, techniques, and food ideas. It comes from Amanda Hesser's mom. I doubled the whole thing (except the salt, as noted) and used two pans. You need to start it in the morning; you soak the chicken in salted ice water for a few hours to season the meat and tighten the flesh for better crisping. Really, the skin is so crunchy, you won't believe it wasn't deep-fried. As I type this, I'm eating a sandwich of leftovers, and it is just as yummy cold.
Judy Hesser's Oven-Fried Chicken
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt (I used regular table salt. Bad idea!)
8 chicken thighs (organic or natural, not Perdue or somesuch) (She said that, not me; I agree that natural birds are tastier and have less fat, but I am not likely to use the word "somesuch." Also, I used a mixture of thighs, drums, and breasts.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
In the morning, combine 2 tablespoons of the salt and 1 cup warm water in a large bowl or container. Stir to dissolve the salt. Trim the chicken of excess skin and fat. Add the chicken to the bowl. Cover with very cold water and add a tray of ice cubes. Swish around with your hand to disperse them. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until dinner time.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the chicken from the fridge and pat dry completely with paper towels. Put the butter in a roasting pan large enough to fit the chicken in one layer. Place the pan in the oven. In a 1-gallon zip-top bag, pour in the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon salt, and the pepper. Give it a good shake. Add the chicken pieces two at a time and shake them until thoroughly coated. As you lift them out of the bag, shake them off vigorously. This is vital—you do not want a gummy coating. Line them up on a plate, and repeat with the rest.
Lay the chicken pieces in the roasting pan, skin side down, and oven-fry until a chestnut brown and crisp on the bottom, about 40 minutes (sometimes it takes as long as an hour). Don’t flip them until this happens. Use a thin spatula to scrape them up off the pan and turn them; cook the other side the same way. (It doesn't take anywhere near that long on the second side.) Remove the pieces from the oven as they finish cooking, and place on a plate lined with paper towels.