Is it me, or have you noticed that Fried Chicken is all the rage at the moment? Much like the current obsession with bacon, it seems every restaurant has their own version, even our local Italian restaurant around the corner starting offering Fried Chicken in a Basket before the pandemic shut down restaurants in mid-March. There was no Italian twist, just old fashioned fried chicken and potato wedges and it stood out on the menu like the old Sesame Street game “one of these things is not like the others”. Since restaurants re-opened in June, and now are outdoor only dining, it has disappeared from that menu, but it is prevalent on those of many other fine dining establishments and not simply at KFC or Chick-fil-A.
In all honesty, I’ve never quite understood all of the hype. My father used to bring home that red and white striped bucket for dinner on an occasional evening and while I recall liking the coleslaw, I thought the mashed potatoes were more akin to wallpaper paste and the gravy was always congealed by the time it arrived on our dinner table from the KFC in town. My brothers loved it, though, so it was a good alternative to pizza when it was my mother’s night off from the kitchen or when they needed to feed us kids before they went out for a “date night”. I was completely turned off around the age of 10 when I was sick after one such dinner while on vacation in North Conway, New Hampshire. Truthfully, I probably had the flu, but even to this day the smell of those 11 herbs and spices makes my stomach flip, so I have had an aversion to it ever since.
Leave it to a couple of Michelin 3-star chefs to change my mind, namely Thomas Keller of The French Laundy in Napa, California (as well as Per Se in New York, Bouchon Bistro and Ad Hoc) and Grantz Achatz of Alinea in Chicago (as well as Next, The Aviary and Roister), who studied under Keller at the French Laundry before striking out on his own. Both chefs have the distinction of winning the James Beard award for Best Chef in America and their restaurants have been ranked #1 in the US, with Alinea holding that title at the moment. We attended a Dom Perignon vs Krug champagne dinner at Roister last November and fried chicken was one of the pairings. I don’t recall if the Dom or Krug was the winner, but I do remember it was delicious. Since Dennis is a huge fan of fried chicken, I decided to give it a try since I had nothing but time on my hands and it was most definitely in keeping with #learnsomethingnew. I pulled out my “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook and embarked on Thomas Keller’s version. I had to make a few adjustments and cut the amount of brine in half and shortened the brining time to 4 hours since I didn’t have restaurant size storage and we wanted to eat before midnight. I also took the shortcut and bought the chicken parts already cut up and only had to cut the breasts in half. All in all, it worked out perfectly and Dennis’s verdict “AWESOME”!
Upon returning to Chicago after 4 1/2 months on Cape Cod and lots of seafood, I offered to make friend chicken on Sunday. While not difficult, it is time consuming and thus it’s worth it to make a large batch, so we invited the Lynches over for dinner. I enlisted our nephews Joe and Timmy to help with the dredging while I fried the chicken. I put Julia to work whisking up the Honey Hot Sauce that I had concocted during the first attempt, which was inspired by a sauce that Maple & Ash serves with their fried chicken that is very tasty. I had the recipe for Maytag Blue Cheese (MBC) Coleslaw from a restaurant that my brother in law Brian used worked at that I adapted, so that and Ktina’s Potato Salad were the sides to round out the meal. And of course Champagne was the perfect pairing!
HONEY HOT SAUCE
- 1/2 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
- 1 cup Honey
- Whisk the ingredients together. That's it! Serve as a dipping sauce for fried chicken and make sure to have plenty of napkins as it's sticky.
- This is basically 2 parts honey to 1 part hot sauce, so use proportions according to your crowd.
- This will keep for several weeks in an airtight container or jar. I suggest keeping in your pantry and not the refrigerator, as the honey will crystallize in the refrigerator.
- I like the tang of Frank’s Hot Sauce (plus it is available in a large bottle, since it’s the original Buffalo Wing hot sauce), but feel free to experiment with other hot sauces that you like. There are endless options, but you may need to adjust the proportions depending on the heat so as not to overpower the honey and allow some sweetness to come through.