There is something beautiful about cooking chicken this way. The meat remains gorgeously succulent, packed with flavour and you get the most awesome crunchy crispy coating. It really is finger licking good! It’s also a perfect recipe for this time of year. it will cheer you up if the weather is still bloody awful or you can enjoy it outside in the rare moments of sunshine. Using the breast keeps it relatively healthy(ish) for a fried dish so whack some soul music on and put your soul into this classic favourite! This recipe makes a great meal for sharing or enjoy with your favourite person (you) with a bit left over for later.
2 large chicken breasts (skinless)
1x 284ml carton Buttermilk
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 pinches dried oregano
1 pinch onion granules
2 grindings of garlic granules
1 pinch of plain or smoked paprika
A pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
100g plain flour
3 pinches plain or smoked paprika
2 pinches onion granules
2 grindings of garlic granules
2 good pinches dried oregano
A little salt and black pepper
Groundnut or other tasteless oil
1. Place your chicken pieces on a chopping board. If they’re very thick, lay them between 2 pieces of cling film. Flatten them slightly, using a rolling pin, rolling gently across each one. Don’t over-do it. (You’re not making schnitzel). Cut each one in half, lengthways, into 2 equal pieces. Wash your hands.
2. Make the marinade: Tip the buttermilk into a shallow bowl or dish. Add and mix in the marinade spices. Add your chicken and turn to cover well. Seal the dish with cling film. Chill overnight or for at least six hours so the meat has time to tenderise and pick up the flavourings.
3. Coat the meat: at least 2 hours before you want to cook, tip all the coating ingredients into a freezer or other plastic bag. Shake the bag to mix. Get a plate or baking tray. Put a rack on it, ready to take the meat.
4. Remove the 4 chicken pieces from their marinade. Shake them over the bowl so any excess marinade drips off. You don’t want them too wet.
5. Place each piece of meat, in turn, into the bag of seasoned flour and turn to coat both sides thoroughly. Remove to the rack. Repeat with the other pieces.
6. Now, dip each piece back into the marinade, then back into the flour to coat once more, then return to the rack. Double dipping gives the chicken a crispier, tastier coating.
7. Dry the meat: place the rack of chicken in the fridge to dry out a bit (up to 2 hours).
8. Pour the oil into a large, very deep sided thick bottomed frying pan (or heavy wok or saucepan). The oil should be at least 3 cm deep but must never over-fill the pan or it could bubble up and spill onto the heat source/catch fire.
9. Heat the oil to 180C using a cooking thermometer. If you don’t have one, test by adding a small cube of bread. It should turn golden brown at once if ready. If it blackens, reduce the heat. If it’s merely soggy, turn it up a bit.
10. Add each piece of meat to the hot oil very carefully. If your pan is small, cook in two batches. If you’re doing that, have your oven on at 180C to keep the first batch warm.
11. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down. Keep an eye on the pan as the meat cooks, so the oil doesn’t bubble up and overflow.
12. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes. Check regularly to see that it doesn’t darken too much.
13. Turn the pieces carefully with tongs or a spoon and fork. Cook for another 3-4 minutes but judge according to the thickness of your meat. To test, remove one fillet. Cut into it. If the flesh is white all through, its cooked.
14. Remove to a plate or rack covered in kitchen paper to drain for 2 minutes.
15. Serve in a bowl for sharing alongside a mix of salads (try red or white cabbage coleslaw, shredded iceberg lettuce), paprika baked potato wedges with sour cream, ketchup, chilli or piri-piri sauce for dipping. Or eat 2 pieces and save 2 for a salad meal next day or a salad or wrap for a lunch box.
CHANGE IT UP: CHICKEN POPCORN Buy a pack of skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Open each one out on a board. Cut into rough squares (3cm x3cm). Prep as above. Cook as above but for much less time in an un-covered pan, turning constantly with a long handled wooden spoon. Test as above to check they’re crisp and cooked white all through.
CHICKEN THIGHS Use bone-in chicken thighs instead of breasts for a juicier, cheaper meat. Keeping the skins on is traditional but skins can result in a less crispy result. Cook thighs for longer than breasts as the bone slows the process down and the whole joint will likely be thicker. Test by cutting down to the bone. The meat must be white, not pink.
CHICKEN FOR A CROWD Buy as many pieces as you need. Prep, marinate and coat your chicken pieces the day before you need them. Leave them overnight to dry in the fridge. Return them to room temperature for an hour before you want to cook them. Cook in batches without ever overcrowding the pan. Have the oven on to keep cooked pieces warm or feed the hungry just as they’re ready.