Recently I discovered a wonderful cookbook called Brown Sugar Kitchen by Tanya Holland with Jan Newberry (2014). Brown Sugar Kitchen is actually a soul food restaurant based on Oakland, California and the book is a reflection of the food experience of the chef and the generous american home style cooking served in her corner store business. I loved reading this book, getting what I think (hope) was a great sense of the tone of the cafe from the style of food and drinks. There is a wonderful inclusion of the people of the neighbourhood, not only in the cookbook, but that is also reflected in the fabric of the culture of the business as Tanya talks about her regulars love of her food and what she makes for particular customers when she anticipates their visit. As the first paragraph of the book declares:
“Brown Sugar Kitchen is more than a restaurant. This soul-food outpost is a community gathering spot, a place to fill the belly…”
When it comes to this recipe I have to ask you to put aside any thoughts you have of fried chicken related to the commercial companies when you continue reading this post. Yes there is a similarity in appearance but the reality of flavour is far removed as to almost be unrelated. Chef and author of Brown Sugar Kitchen, Tanya Holland, talks of a variation of this recipe being made by her mum regularly as a child and her disbelief when she discovered that other children around her had only had the commercial experience of southern fried chicken and not this amazing homemade version that she so fondly recalls. With such high praise for this recipe I thought that it was worth attempting to see what the fuss was about.
I now understand some of the buzz. The chicken from this recipe was beautifully moist, full of flavour and texture and down right delicious. Whilst it’s not something I’ll be making every day for fear of an expanding waistline, we both loved the flavours and texture and found it went particularly well with mayonnaise and would be perfectly accompanied by some fresh coleslaw. Unfortunately my end result photo probably doesn’t do the chicken justice due to lighting conditions and hungry bellies.
Me being me, I did make a few small adjustments to the recipe, mainly because I was feeding 2 not 4-6. I also used chicken breast only as Mr G is not such a fan of chicken on the bone, although I’d be suggesting going the whole hog with this and cutting a chicken into pieces as Tanya suggests in her book. Gnawing the tender chicken from the bone after being marinated this way would be a delight for any carnivore. Next time I’d also add in a tsp of chilli powder to amp up the zing level a little as we both like a bit of bite beyond the cayenne pepper that is already in this recipe.
I’m sure there will be more creations coming from this book some time very soon, but for now, pop your fear of frying on hold and forget about the calories. Treat yourself and your family or friends to this recipe some time very very soon.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
* from Brown Sugar Kitchen by Tanya Holland
serves 4-6 people
- 2 tbl sp fresh parsley, minced
- 1 tbl sp dried tarragon
- 1 tbl sp dried onion powder
- 1 tbl sp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp sea salt + 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper + 1 tbl sp
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 x approx 1.6kg whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces or chicken breasts cut into strips
- 1 cup buttermilk
- rice bran oil for frying
- 1 1/2 cups plain flour
In a large bowl or marinating container, combine the parsley, tarragon, onion powder, paprika, 2 tsp salt, garlic powder, cayenne, 1 tsp black pepper, oregano and thyme. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Pour in the buttermilk and cover to marinate in the fridge overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
If you are cooking a whole chicken then preheat your oven to 180c. If just cooking with breast or thigh meat you can skip the oven step of the process. In a large cast-iron fry pan add oil to a depth of 2cm and heat the oil to 180c over a medium heat until hot but not smoking. To check the temperature of your oil stick a skewer into the heated oil and when it starts to bubble and sizzle around the wood then it will be hot enough to cook the chicken.
In a large bowl combine the flour, 1 tbl sp salt and 1 tbl sp freshly cracked black pepper. One piece at a time, letting the buttermilk marinade drip back into the chicken bowl, dredge the chicken pieces in flour, gently shake off any excess and then place into the hot oil.
Cook 2-3 pieces at a time, flouring as you are about to cook them. Don’t overcrowd your oil or the temperature will drop too much and the chicken will end up greasy and oily. Cook each piece of chicken until crisp and golden brown. This should take about 5-7 minutes. If you are cooking meat off the bone then this should be long enough to cook through. Test one piece by cutting in half and make sure the meat is white all the way through. Serve whilst crispy and hot.
If you are cooking chicken on the bone then place the chicken onto a baking tray lined with paper towel and a metal cooling rack. Place the baking tray in the middle of your oven and bake for approx 15-20 minutes. This is to ensure that the chicken is properly cooked through to the bone and will also help to crisp up the outer shell. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving with a generous dollop of mayonnaise and a fresh coleslaw.
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