Fried chicken has to be one of the all time best comfort foods, right? I mean good fried chicken of course, not the stuff that teenagers pick at on street corners and then so thoughtfully leave the remains of on the floor of the bus. That stuff is clearly the beginning of the end for modern society, ruining appetites at dinner time, increasing obesity, destroying relationships, contributing to climate change and upping the chances of an imminent zombie apocalypse.
I think I came across the idea of brining chicken in iced tea in Bon Appetit, and a little light Googling revealed that it is most definitely ‘a thing’. I’ve come around to the idea of brining chicken since I wrote a (buttermilk brined) fried chicken recipe for my book 101 Sandwiches; it really does increase the juiciness of the meat and of course is another opportunity to introduce flavours. The thing to watch out for is over-brining, because that makes the meat obviously watery and frankly, just a bit weird. Get it right, and it’s fabulous.
Using iced tea just seems so brilliantly Deep South. It gave the meat a sweetness and flavour that was surprisingly complex. I modified my original coating recipe slightly and it all worked out very well indeed. The buttermilk jalapeño slaw is a must alongside as the acidity and bite of the jalapeños does great things in your mouth with the full-on fried chicken.
Iced Tea-Brined Fried Chicken
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (good quality, free-range)
1.5 bottles Lipton Iced Tea, original flavour (enough to just cover the chicken, approx 750ml)
1 level teaspoon sea salt
For the coating:
150g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Oil, such as groundnut, for frying
Dissolve the salt in the iced tea and submerge the chicken in it. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. Drain.
Make the seasoned flour by combining all the ingredients in a bowl. Heat some oil for deep frying to a temperature of 160C. Pat the chicken with kitchen paper, then dip it into the seasoned flour, coating well all over. Cook the chicken 2 pieces at a time in the hot oil for about 5-6 minutes each side, until the internal temperature reaches 75C. Drain on kitchen paper.
Buttermilk Jalapeno Slaw
1/2 white cabbage
1 large carrot
1 small red or white onion
2 tablespoons jalapenos, chopped (I used the ones that come sliced in a jar)
4 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice 1/2 small lemon
Use a grating attachment for a food processor to chop/shred the cabbage, carrot and onion finely. You can of course do this by hand too. Mix in the other ingredients, season with salt and serve with the fried chicken.