Southern fried chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, skin on, crushed
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 8 allspice berries 
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp soft brown or caster sugar
  • Fine sea salt
  • 12 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 285ml buttermilk
  • About 1 litre sunflower oil, for frying
Southern fried chicken
    Serves six

My version of this legendary dish is based on a method perfected by Michael Rhulman, whose brilliant book Rhulman's Twenty demystifies some fundamental cooking techniques. You need to start 24 hours ahead, but it's one of the most worthwhile waits I can think of. Serve with the slaw that follows.

  1. Pour a litre of tap water into a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic, bay, allspice, vinegar, sugar and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat and set aside to cool; about an hour should do. Add the chicken thighs, making sure they are fully submerged, cover and leave in the fridge for 24 hours to marinate, stirring from time to time.
  2. Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Rinse the chicken, discarding the brine, and pat dry very well. Put the flour, white pepper, paprika, coriander seeds, baking powder and a teaspoon of salt in a bowl and mix well. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl. Dip the chicken thighs one by one into the buttermilk – they need just a thin coating, so brush against the rim of the bowl to remove any excess – then coat with the flour mixture. You want an even yet thin coat.
  3. Pour enough oil into a large sauté pan so that it rises 4cm up the sides. Place on a medium-high heat and use a thermometer to bring the oil to 170C (if you don't have a thermometer, the oil needs to keep sizzling away when you're frying the chicken, but only moderately so). Working in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan and thus lower the temperature of the oil, gently lower the chicken thighs into the oil and cook for nine minutes, turning once. Transfer to a kitchen towel-lined plate and keep warm while you cook the rest of the chicken.
  4. Transfer the thighs to a baking tray and finish them off in the oven for a further eight to 12 minutes, until cooked through. Leave to rest for five minutes before serving.