Editor's Note: I've been a huge fan of Aki and Alex of the blog Ideas in Food ever since I was a little chef-ling burning meat as a line cook in Boston. With their newest book, Gluten-Free Flour Power, they turn their considerable intellect to gluten-free recipes, developing unique solutions for folks who maintain a gluten-free diet. —Kenji
Karaage is Japanese-style fried chicken made with a flavorful soy-based marinade. It comes out light, crispy, and full of flavor. One of our favorite uses for potato starch is to coat fried foods—if you've never cooked with potato starch, this recipe will convince you that you must keep it in your pantry at all times.
Because we couldn't help ourselves, we butterflied the chicken thighs before marinating them. That lets the marinade penetrate more quickly and also promotes even cooking. And it increases the surface area, so you have even more crispy fried goodness to enjoy.
To butterfly the chicken, lay one chicken thigh skin side down on a cutting board, with the bone running vertically. Use a sharp paring knife to cut down the center to the bone, from top to bottom. Gently slide the knife horizontally to the left to butterfly the meat, being careful not to cut all the way through it. Carefully open the flap and lightly score the meat in a crosshatch pattern, again being careful not to cut all the way through the meat, then repeat on the right side of the thigh.
We add the thighs to the bowl with the marinade, a blend of Japanese flavors (ginger, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar), along with American buttermilk to make sure the finished chicken is juicy, tender, and delicious. After that, they go into a zipper-lock bag to rest for 12 to 24 hours.
The real key to an extra-crisp crust is double-dipping. We roll the thighs in the potato starch to coat, then put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once all the thighs are dredged, they go for a second dip into the potato starch.
Chicken thighs can handle a lot more heat than chicken breasts, which are prone to dryness, so you can fry these guys until they're extra golden brown and crispy. We fry them in a cast iron skillet with an inch and a half of oil, frying them for a full eight minutes on each side.
For the oil, we prefer rice bran. It's one of our favorite oils for frying. Produced from the bran of the rice kernel, it is 20% saturated fat and 80% unsaturated fat, has a light, nutty flavor, and is unlikely to cause allergic reactions. It has long been used in Asia both as a cooking oil and for cosmetic purposes.
As the chicken thighs finish cooking, we transfer them to a wire rack and keep them in a warm oven until all of them are cooked and ready to serve. Once you've tried this, you will never make fried chicken any other way.