Momofuku Fried Chicken
When it’s cold outside I get a special lust up for yummy crispy fried chicken. OK let’s be honest, fried chicken is great any time but for me it’s definitely in the comfort food category when it’s cold. And if consuming fried food wasn’t going to make me crazy fat and give me some health issues I could happily eat it without stop. I am actually dying to get a copy of Rebecca Lang’s book Fried Chicken: Recipes for the Crispy, Crunchy, Comfort-Food Classic to try some of the recipes because good fried chicken is not easy to come by in Paris. Might start off with David Lebovitz’s version of her French Fried Chicken first. Thanks to Hero I can get my Korean chicken fix when I am too lazy to cook. However I am pretty picky about my fried bird and usually muster up the energy to cook it myself.
One of my favorite recipes comes from a rather unlikely source—David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook. I have never tasted this recipe from the hands of Chang himself at his joint in New York because first you have to actually secure a reservation and then specially request the chicken. However my friends who have tasted this chicken made by my hands usually go pretty gaga over how tasty and addictive it is, if I say so myself. Fried chicken crack I tell you! The secret is steaming the chicken followed by a fry for crisp and tossing it in a ginger garlic vinaigrette, it actually tastes like chicken and not fried batter. The prep process is long but it is worth every bite. Getting hungry just thinking about it.
Momofuku Fried Chicken
Adapted from David Chang’s Fried Chicken
First a note about the ingredients and process: I have to admit that I loosely follow the ingredients as listed in his cookbook. I have never braved buying a whole chicken and hacking it up. Instead I buy it in pieces, lots of drumsticks, wings, and thighs. The ingredient list in Chang’s book is for serving 2-4 but this chicken is so good you will want to feed more and/or have leftovers. So I basically buy a heap of chicken to fit my guest list or my appetite. You can double the water, sugar, salt brine as you need. Steps 1 and 2 can be done a day before frying to save time.
4 cups (1000 ml) lukewarm water
½ cup (118 ml) sugar
½ cup (118 ml) kosher salt
One 3 to 3 ½ pound chicken, cut into 4 pieces (2 legs, 2 breast halves with wings attached)
4 cups (1000 ml) of grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
Octo Vinaigrette (see below)
1. Mix the water, sugar, and salt in a large bowl to make a brine. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken pieces and put them in large ziplock bags or a large container with a lid that will fit in your refrigerator. If you are making a larger quantity, repeat this step until you have enough brine to cover all your chicken. Leave the chicken in the fridge for at least 1 hour but no more than 6 hours.
2. The next step of steaming you might need do in shifts. Take the first bag out of the refrigerator and drain and discard the brine. You can either use a Chinese bamboo steamer or a stovetop steamer. (If you use a Chinese steamer put the legs in the bottom level and the breast and thighs on the top.) Steam 40 minutes then remove the chicken from the steamer to a cooling rack. Once it has cooled down put the chicken in a bowl in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
3. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you fry it.
4. Using a deep skillet or pot, heat enough oil for the chicken to be submerged to 190 C/ 375 F. If you don’t have a thermometer drop a piece of Panko or breadcrumb into the oil. If it sizzles it’s ready. Fry the chicken in batches, turning once, until the skin is deep brown and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Then put the chicken on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
5. If you started from a whole chicken you will have to cut up some of the bigger pieces. (Cut the wing from the breast, cut the breast in half, cut through the knee to separate the thigh from the drumstick.) xxxxxxx yeah shred the bird!!!!
6. Put your chicken pieces in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve hot and watch everyone lose their minds.
Chang suggests taking your time to chop the garlic and ginger and I agree. Using a garlic press only produces mush and affects the taste of the sauce. Also chunks of ginger and garlic that are too big will mess up the flavor and no one wants to munch on giant pieces of garlic with their fried chicken.
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 fresh bird’s eye-chile, seeded and chopped
¼ cup (59 ml) rice wine vinegar
¼ cup (59 ml) usukuchi/ light soy sauce
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
¼ teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
Fresh ground black pepper
Mix the ingredients in a lidded container, add add few turns of the black pepper and shake well to mix. This vinaigrette will keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days and also tastes great with fried fish.
Image by Ajiri Aki
A little MANNA…
In place of kosher salt, which I have yet to find in Paris, just use gros sel.
A neutral oil is any light oil that won’t add it’s flavor to your dish. A great alternative to grapeseed (huile de pépin de raisin) is canola oil (huile de colza).