Get outta the way, Colonel Sanders, there’s some fresh meat in town.
Ask any Londoner what smell they sniff most as they walk about the streets, in particular around South East where we live, and you can be assured a sizeable number of them will say “fried chicken”. There’s basically a fried chicken shop on every street corner in London, and to be totally honest with you, we wouldn’t touch most with a barge pole. Let us explain why and show you our amazing alternative…
Why? The answer is simple: quality. If you are able to sell the equivalent of a whole chicken for £4 (or less!), you obviously are using battery/caged chickens, which have an appalling standard of life and don’t have great flavour. Many also specifically use chickens killed in particular methods for religious purposes; methods we don’t particular agree with.
But that’s BESIDES the point, we’re here to sell this to you, right? We bloody love fried chicken when it’s done right; crispy, spicy and herby on the outside, succulently juicy on the inside. Served with gravy, curry sauce, coleslaw, chips or whatever you fancy; it’s particularly perfect for a casual weekend feast with friends, which we’ve done on many occasions.
Traditionally fried chicken is deep-fried, that’s no secret, but our special version is oven baked, with a teeny bit of pan frying at the start. This is a conscious method to be a bit healthier, because let’s face it, we normally inhale a bottle of wine or a couple of local craft beers each while tucking into this so we need balance in life! We did test this recipe initially using healthy frying ingredient of-the-moment coconut oil, but it divided opinion; while it gave a beautiful crisp coating, it left a lingering tropical, creamy note which we feel really doesn’t work well with the delicate mixture of herbs and spices.
Another thing we do differently – discovered thanks to our fabulous friend Sally Bee – is to use egg whites instead of whole egg for the coating. It makes the coating lighter and gives a nicer, shiner coating. We feel it’s also easier to work with. Plus, with all those extra egg yolks we save ’em up to make mayonnaise or custard 👍!
We use chicken thighs, skinless and boneless. Skin-on for deep-fried is fine, but for oven baked, the skin doesn’t really work for us. If you get chicken with skin on, thank the Lorde herself as you can whip it off the meat, flatten it on a baking tray, crisp in a hot oven for about 5-7 minutes and you have GLORIOUS nectar of the Gods – crispy chicken skin to snack on! We drool just thinking about that; the perfect cook’s perk! You can go for drumsticks, if you prefer, and if you’re uncomfortable with brown meat – as some are – simply cut 3-4 chicken breasts into large chunks.
🐓 GFC GastroGays Fried Chicken, y’all! 🐓
- 6-8 boneless chicken thighs (the best quality you can afford- higher welfare will do, but free-range and organic is best)
- 500ml buttermilk
- 2 large egg whites, slackened with about 3 tbsp cold water
- 1 cup of flour in two baking sheets each – one plain, the other seasoned with salt, pepper, spices and herbs as follows:
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp white pepper
- 1 tbsp mixed herbs/herbs de provence
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp paprika (unsmoked, sweet version)
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 2-3 tbsp oil for frying (groundnut or rapeseed for us)
1. Steep for 24 hours in buttermilk. This is crucial to keep it tender and juicy. Don’t you just hate recipes that only tell you halfway down that it’s actually a two-day process? Look; if you only have an hour, soak for an hour; if you can spare two or three, even better. Obviously, the full schlog overnight is best, but work with whatever you got.
2. When ready to start preparing, drain all the buttermilk off. Get your two tins ready- one with unseasoned flour, the other with the flour and spices added to it. Coat lightly in the unseasoned flour first, shaking off the excess very well. Then, use two hands independently: the left hand to always move chicken piece to egg wash, then dropped into the spiced flour; the right to roll around and coat the pieces generously in the flour.
3. Now for another crucial step, repeat all the above for a double coating (you don’t want to waste all that spiced flour, right?) Again, repeat the same steps with the same hands and you won’t end up with wallpaper paste dripping down your arms and drying on the teeny hairs!
4. Fry on a medium high heat in about 2-3 tbsp of oil for about two minutes a side until the coating is set – depending on numbers, you might need to do this in batches.. Decant to a baking rack and bake at 220 for about 20 minutes. Depending on the sizes of your chicken, you may need to give or take a few minutes either side of this time.
Voilà, time for some finger lickin’ fun! Sprinkle with some flaked sea salt, a spritz of lemon and scatter some fresh herbs if they’re available. We usually serve ours with homemade chips, freshly-made crunchy coleslaw and a huge pile of steamed greens. 😋
How do you eat yours? 😏