Most would agree, the best part of fried chicken is the skin. Evil-genius chef Sean Brock decided to skip the middleman—er, chicken—and go right for the good stuff. He serves these deep-fried strips of chicken skin as a bar snack at Husk, and was benevolent enough to share the recipe for them in his new cookbook, Heritage. After scraping the fat off the skin, he bakes it in buttermilk until tender, then dredges the strips in seasoned flour and fries them into crispy little bites that get splashed with hot sauce, drizzled with honey, and sprinkled with lemon thyme. Be forewarned, these can disappear quite suddenly, leaving you with greasy lips and a guilty look on your face.
Why I picked this recipe: Do you really have to ask?
What worked: These are delicious little nuggets, for sure. The braise in buttermilk turns the skin succulent and tangy, giving it character that stands up to the flavorful flour mixture and the frying. I liked them best when the hot sauce and honey were liberally applied.
What didn't: For this recipe, Brock instructs to use his Husk Hot Sauce, which I'm certain is amazing but takes 2 months to ferment; I used my favorite store-bought brand, and was perfectly happy. (I also used regular thyme, because I couldn't find lemon thyme.) As to his method, the directions read to scrape the fat off of the skin, which is a rather delicate process, after it's already cut into 1/4-inch strips. This totally mangled the fragile strips, not to mention being utterly tedious.
Suggested tweaks: Scrape the skin clean with a knife before cutting it into strips (which I found was easier to do with shears). Also, I actually liked the strips left a bit larger, even up to 1-inch wide, since I thought they stayed more distinct within their crispy coating. It took me only around 3 minutes to reach a golden-brown state in the fryer as opposed to the 5 minutes Brock cites, so pay close attention. And just to note: 1 pound of chicken skin yielded about 1 cup of cleaned strips.
Excerpted from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.
- Yield:Serves 4
- Active time: 50 minutes
- Total time:2 hours
- 2 cups 1/4-inch-wide strips fresh chicken skin
- 2 cups whole-milk buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups canola oil
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Dark amber honey
- Husk Hot Sauce [or other hot sauce]
- Lemon thyme for garnish
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
With the back of a knife, scrape away all the visible fat from the chicken skin. The cleaner you get the skin at this point, the crisper it will be when it is fried. (You may want to refrigerate the fat and save it to use for flavor when cooking fried chicken or for rubbing on a chicken before you roast it.)
Combine the buttermilk, cayenne, and salt in a baking dish, add the skin, and gently toss. Bake the chicken skin in the buttermilk for 1 hour, or until tender. Remove the baking dish from the oven and leave the skin in the buttermilk until cool enough to handle.
Remove the skin from the buttermilk, shake off any excess, and lay it out on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to drain and cool completely, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the canola oil to 350°F in a deep fryer or a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Combine the flour, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika in a baking dish.
Toss the skin in the flour mixture, coating it liberally. Working in batches, fry the skin for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Drain the skin for a minute or two on wire racks covered with paper towels.
Serve the chicken skin family-style on a platter with a drizzle of honey, a splash of hot sauce, and a sprinkle of lemon thyme.