Lemon-Marinated Tuscan-Jewish Fried Chicken Recipe

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Lemon-marinated fried chicken, a gift from the Tuscan Jews. Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • A short marination time is enough to deeply flavor the meat without making it tough from the acid in the lemon juice.
  • Spices add subtle depth and complexity to the marinade.
  • The salt in the marinade turns it into a brine, which helps keep the chicken juicy.

Tuscany and fried chicken: two things that are almost universally loved, but otherwise have very little to do with each other. Or do they? Turns out there's an awesome fried chicken dish that comes to us straight from the Jewish community of Tuscany. Known as Pollo Fritto per Chanukkà (fried chicken for Hanukkah), it features meat that's brined in lemon juice with garlic and spices, then fried in a simple coating of flour and egg. The bright, lemony flavor is a perfect counterpoint to the rich juiciness of the fried chicken.

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (legs split into drumsticks and thighs, breast halves and wings split), backbones reserved for stock (see note)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh juice from 3 lemons
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Vegetable, peanut, canola, or olive oil, for frying (see note)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

  1. In a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag, combine chicken, lemon juice, garlic, salt, a generous grating of pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Seal and shake to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.

  2. When ready to fry chicken, fill a wok, Dutch oven, or large cast iron skillet with about 1 1/2 inches of oil and heat oil until it registers 375°F on an instant-read thermometer. Fill a wide bowl with flour and another with egg.

  3. Drain chicken. Working in batches if necessary, dredge each piece of chicken in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg to coat. Let excess egg drizzle off, then add to hot oil; the oil temperature will drop. Fry chicken, turning occasionally and maintaining an oil temperature between 325 and 350°F, until chicken is golden brown outside and registers an internal temperature of 145°F for breasts and 155°F for drumsticks and thighs, about 15 minutes.

  4. Transfer fried chicken to paper towels to drain, then transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Allow chicken to rest for a full 3 minutes after breast core temperature rises to 150°F. Serve right away with lemon wedges. Alternatively, allow to cool to room temperature, then re-fry in hot oil just before serving.

Special equipment

wok, Dutch oven, or large cast iron skillet; instant-read thermometer; large rimmed baking sheet; wire rack

Notes

If you don't want to break down a whole chicken, you can ask the butcher to do it for you, or buy roughly 3 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts, wings, drumsticks, and/or thighs from the supermarket meat case. The choice of oil is a matter of personal preference: Olive oil will add a distinct Mediterranean flavor to the dish, but will also cover up some of the bright, lemony flavor. Meanwhile, neutral oils, like vegetable, peanut, and canola, will let more of that flavor come through.

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