Week two in my unorthodox treatment of za'atar continues with this recipe for za'atar-seasoned fried chicken. It's a simple preparation: dip in buttermilk, roll in flour, fry in a cast iron pan. But the flour is doctored with a good dose of za'atar, a blend of salt and sumac and sesame: only thyme breaks up the consonance of the mix.
I like the contrast of the expected with the unexpected. The crispy, salty flake and shred of fried chicken. And then a tart bite from the sumac as it bleeds and stains the crust in the hot oil. The earthy thyme as it crisps against the chicken skin. And the ever-exotic nuttiness of toasting sesame seeds that always signal to Americans a recipe from a far off land. (Except, of course, in the case of bagels; unless Manhattan is indeed far off). Arabian Americana? Perhaps some would find it contradictory. But, William Blake did say the world is made up of contradictions. And I personally don't mind them—so long as they taste good.
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.
Za'atar Fried Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken drumettes
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- vegetable oil for frying
Place the chicken in a large baggie with the buttermilk, and place in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours.
Meanwhile, fill a cast iron frying pan halfway with vegetable oil, and heat to 325 degrees F.
Fry the drumettes 5 minutes on each side (10 minutes total). Remove to a cooling rack to drain. Serve immediately.