I love eating at Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s casual restaurant in Yountville just a block away from Bouchon and the tiny Bouchon Bakery. Their prix fixe $49 menu never disappoints us when we visit. As I’ve said twice on the show before (here and here), it’s like eating a home cooked meal prepared by a top-tier kitchen staff.
Because we live so far away from the restaurant, we’re not able to go as often as we’d like to. In fact, Arnold at inuyaki.com takes the cake, having been to the restaurant 30 times in 2 1/2 years. Oh how nice it must be to live that close to all the good stuff.
One of the meals regulars like Arnold rave about, that we’ve never been fortunate enough to enjoy, is their weekly “Fried Chicken Night” on Mondays. Keller loves making fried chicken, and I have only heard great things about this weekly meal at Ad Hoc.
Enter the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit from Williams-Sonoma (available in stores only – no longer available online). What appears as a small flour sack contains packages of brine and coating mix to make two batches of fried chicken.
When made according to the inconceivably precise directions on the back of the bag, it’s like eating at Ad Hoc on the infamous Monday night everyone raves so much about.
The first step was simple. In a large pot, combine the contents of the bag of brine mixture with 6 1/2 cups of water, bring it to a boil, then allow to cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
While the brine was cooling, I figured I’d get to work on the chicken. We eat a lot of chicken in our house. Two or three times a week, usually. So I’ve had a lot of practice carving these birds.
I cut the chicken into 8 pieces (2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 breasts). After taking this picture below, I re-read the instructions which said to cut the beasts into halves. So I did that. Again, if you’re cooking Keller, do what the man tells you to.
Once the brine was cool, I dropped the pieces into the solution, pressing to submerge them as completely as I could. Then I covered it, and put it into the refrigerator to begin the brining process.
Guess how long the brining process takes. EIGHT TO TWELVE HOURS!
Yeah, that’s what I said too.
That seemed a little long for me. I was happy to get an early start on this project, but at this rate we were looking at a pretty late dinner. On the weekends, we tend to eat earlier because I have more time to cook and prepare. This was going to be pushing it a little.
After the 8 hours were up, I took the brine from the refrigerator, removed the chicken pieces and rinsed them with cold water to remove any herbs and spices that were sticking to them. After drying them with paper towels, I allowed them to sit at room temperature for a while. I took this time to make my fry station, splitting the coating mix between two plates, and 3 cups of buttermilk in a bowl between them.
I heated my peanut oil to 330 degrees, then started coating my chicken pieces one at a time. Starting with the legs and thighs (directions were very specific about which pieces to do first), I dredged the chicken in the coating mix, dipped it in the buttermilk, then dredged it in the second plate of mix until thickly coated. The directions stated not to shake off the excess, so I didn’t. After all of the chicken pieces were coated, it was time to start frying this stuff, two pieces at a time.
Everyone in the pool!
I started with the legs and thighs, frying them for 10-13 minutes until they were golden brown. When the pieces were finished, I transfered them to a paper-towel lined rack to drain. The breasts and wings came next, which took less time to cook – about 6 minutes. It was at this time that my oil became really nasty looking. Some of the batter found it’s way into the pot of oil, and I realized my temperature had gotten to 350 degrees at some point as well. This had no apparent affect on the chicken, but the oil was definitely toast.
I served the chicken with biscuits, herbed mashed potatoes, and chicken gravy I made using some stock prepared from the neck, back, and bones from the cut up fryer.
So how was it? It was delicious – that’s how it was. The meat was remarkably juicy and tender, and had a pleasant lemony flavor to it. The brine certainly did this, and it helped tighten the skin as well, which helped the crust.
The crust itself was OK, but not as crunchy as I thought it might be. After having experimented with Trisol, I’m kind of spoiled in that regard. Nothing will ever be crunchier than that. Overall, the flavor of the chicken far outweighed the flavor of the crust.
Either it was really delicious or we were both famished from the 12 hour wait for dinner, but this plate says it better than I can.
I’m going to try Keller’s recipe from the September 2008 issue of Bon Appetit next, followed by the recipe in the new Ad Hoc at Home he’s recently released. It will be interesting to see how they fare compared to this.
Wow. That sounded just as weird as it looked when I wrote it.
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