In 2013, acclaimed Vietnamese chef Charles Phan, best know for his famed San Fran restaurant Slanted Door, opened Hard Water, a New Orleans-style whiskey bar in the Embarcadero. Living in New Orleans myself, I can attest that the large Vietnamese population here shares its vibrant flavors with the traditional local food scene, and that the two cuisines can inform and enliven each other in deep and interesting ways. They share a love of boldness and complexity that make the fusion rather seamless. (And, of course, the perfect bread for po' boys and banh mi is interchangeable, so they have that in common.)
Phan's Asian take on Southern fried chicken that he serves at Hard Water and shares in Lee Brian Schrager's Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides reflects this happy synthesis. He dry-brines his chicken in salt and garlic powder and leaves it uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours to dry out the skin. Then he dredges it in a spicy mix with turmeric and coriander and deep-fries it to a gorgeous sunny-gold crisp.
And now let's talk about the sriracha butter, because the chicken is delicious, but this sriracha butter kills it. Sriracha and lime juice, with a touch of sugar and salt, is whirred in a blender to which a generous amount of melted butter is slowly added. The result is a creamy, fiery but balanced sauce that in no way should be allowed near anything fried. It's just dangerously good. But over the chicken it goes, and you'll never want to eat fried chicken without it ever again.
Why I picked this recipe: I know, and you know I know, that you've thought about what it would be like to slather frothy butter sauce over your deep-fried chicken.
What worked: The chicken and the sauce and the two together. The air-chilling did seem to result in very crispy skin; it's definitely a technique worth adding to the arsenal.
What didn't: Nothing to complain about here.
Suggested tweaks: Though not mentioned in the recipe, a squeeze of lime per the photograph is a nice touch. And let me know how you end up using up the extra Sriracha butter (stirred into ramen is my next bright idea for it)!
Reprinted from Fried & True by Lee Schrager with Adeena Sussman. Copyright (c) 2014 by Lee Schrager. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, LLC.
- For Air-Chilling the Chicken
- 1 whole chicken (3 pounds maximum), cut into 8 pieces and patted dry
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- For the Sriracha Butter
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup Sriracha sauce
- Juice of 1 lime (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- For the Dredge
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 3 quarts canola or peanut oil, for frying
Season the chicken: Season the chicken with the salt and garlic powder and arrange, skin side up, on a baking sheet, leaving space between pieces if possible. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow the chicken to come to room temperature.
Make the Sriracha butter: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Place the Sriracha sauce, lime juice, salt, and sugar in a blender or food processor. Blend on high for 1 minute, adding the melted butter in a slow stream to create an airy, emulsified sauce. The sauce will keep in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 1 month.
Dredge the chicken: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cayenne pepper, salt, turmeric, and coriander. Fill a 6-quart pot halfway with the oil and heat to 340°F. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess, and place it on a clean baking sheet. Set a rack atop a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
Fry the chicken: Working in batches, fry the chicken, turning occasionally, until evenly browned and the internal temperature reaches 165°F, 12 to 14 minutes. Drain the chicken pieces on the rack; serve hot or at room temperature, drizzled with the Sriracha butter.
Candy or deep-fry thermometer