This fried chicken brined with lemon and rosemary and drizzled with honey is unbelievably delicious! It’s also pretty simple to make; once I get the chicken in the brine, I can just let it sit in the refrigerator, and the brine will flavor the meat while I get work done around the ranch. I use a lot of lemon and eight whole sprigs of rosemary, which adds some nice California flavors to the dish, and when I fry the chicken, I dredge it in flour twice—once before I dip it in buttermilk and once after—so that the crust will be really crisp and bubbly after it’s fried.
To get a really crispy crust on my chicken, I add baking powder to the flour mixture (a trick I learned from my mom). After brining the chicken, make sure to dry each piece so that the mixture will stick to the meat.
When your oil is hot, you can coat your fingers with buttermilk and some flour and sprinkle a few drops of that batter into the oil; if the temperature is right, the batter should bubble and pop. (Just be careful not to get your fingers too close to the oil!) If you smell something burning while you fry the chicken, you’ll want to turn off the oil, dump it out (discarding it in an appropriate container) and start over with fresh oil.
Lemon Buttermilk Fried Chicken
For the Brine
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 sweet yellow onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
- 5 lemons, cut in half
For the Chicken
- 8 chicken drumsticks
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 6 cups vegetable oil
- Honey, for drizzling
Put the olive oil, garlic, and onion into a heavy-bottomed pot, season with the salt, and cook over low heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes. While the onion is cooking, add the rosemary to the pot. Squeeze the lemons into the pot and add the lemon halves as well, seeds and all.
Cook until the lemons have heated through and you can smell them, but the lemon juice has not evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer the brine for about 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and transfer the brine (including the lemon halves) to a heat-proof container. Refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.
When the brine has cooled, put the chicken legs in a non-reactive container, and pour the brine on top of them. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged in the liquid, cover the container, and refrigerate the mixture for anywhere between 2 and 10 hours, to flavor the meat.
Put the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, paprika, and baking powder in a medium bowl and mix well. Pour the buttermilk into a medium bowl and set it aside. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Dredge the chicken in the flour, making sure to coat all sides, and set each piece on a plate or a baking rack on a cookie sheet. Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy, deep-sided pan or Dutch oven with a candy thermometer or a frying thermometer attached to the side and heat the oil over medium until it reaches 350 degrees.
Working in batches, cook the chicken: Dip each drumstick into the bowl of buttermilk, making sure to cover it completely, dip it back into the flour mixture, turning to coat, and then carefully place it into the hot oil. (You’ll be able to fit 3 to 4 legs in the pan at a time; make sure not to crowd the pieces or let the oil get too close to the top of the pan.) Fry the chicken, turning it with tongs as necessary, until all of the pieces are crisp and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan with tongs and place it on a plate lined with paper towels or a baking rack on a cookie sheet. Let the oil come back to 350 degrees and repeat the process with another batch of chicken. (If your chicken is on a baking rack, you can put it into the oven, at 250 degrees, to keep it warm.)
When all of the chicken is cooked, drizzle it lightly with honey and serve.
This recipe appeared in Episode 102 of Ranch To Table on Magnolia Network.
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Photos: Brian Skope