We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

At Last—Gluten-Free Fried Chicken We Love!

Story by Linda—Photos by Michelle

"Frying chicken always makes me feel a little better about life." — Kathyrn Stockett, The Help

   I must have lived a previous incarnation in the South. Fried chicken has been one of my favorite foods for my entire life, and features prominently in my memory even as a very small child. I can remember a trip to Knott's Berry Farm as a girl, and I don't remember much about the theme park, but I can remember in vivid detail my fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and creamy gravy. To be sure, there was the famous berry pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
   Fried chicken has always been a go-to picnic food for me as well. In my past, I have been known to fry up big batches to take to the beach on the 4th of July, because it is such a crowd pleaser. There never seems to be any complaints from young or old when fried chicken is pulled from the ice chest, and served up with Our Family's Potato or Grandma's Best Macaroni salads. A Provençal-style potato salad (pictured above) is also a nice choice, and is made without mayonnaise, if that is a consideration.

   When I went gluten-free, a little over two years ago now, I anticipated it being difficult. As it has turned out, giving up gluten has not been all that prohibitive. In all seriousness, with thousands of people deciding to eliminate gluten from their diets (gluten-free diet being one of the hottest food trends for 2013), new GF products are showing up in the marketplace almost daily. Having said that—giving up starchy carbohydrates like potatoes and refined carbohydrates like sugar—well, that is another matter all together. To eliminate those items from one's diet, in my experience, requires real discipline.
   When Michelle became interested in the GF diet, she put on her researcher hat (one that she is fond of and very good at), and she spent quite a bit of time putting together a Gluten-Free Baking Primer: From Alcohols and Vinegars to Flours and Starches. It is a truly great resource if you are just getting started and need a handy reference. Experienced bakers will also appreciate all of the comparisons of various gluten-free flour blends for baking that she tried and tested.

Summer is around the corner... time to make Our Family's Potato Salad.
   Learning to perfect a gluten-free fried chicken that made me finally say, "Wow, that's great!", has been a journey of trial and error, with many just so-so results. The biggest challenge with gluten-free flours is that most of them do not brown well. I finally found a solution to that, and here is my new recipe, with a crispy and flaky crust that is truly a deep golden brown, and it is substantial, as you can see from the photos. It has crunch.
   A last piece of advice is to buy good quality chicken. In general, the commercial chicken industry is one of the nastiest out there. Chickens are raised in cages in which their feet never touch the ground. They are bred to have larger breasts, and therefore they really aren't able to stand. Life in the cage involves being de-beaked, pumped full of hormones to get them to market quicker, and then the chickens are given antibiotics their entire lives to protect them in these poultry "slums" that are a rampant breeding ground for disease. When you consume animals that are fed hormones and antibiotics, then you are eating those things, also. Not to mention the greater risk of food borne pathogens coming from the conditions that these mass slaughterhouses create.
   Whole Foods Market provides a step-rated guide to provide complete transparency if you care about how the animals that you eat for meat are raised and fed. To view the 5-Step™Animal Welfare Rating Guide click here.
   If you would prefer to cook up boneless chicken breasts, Michelle developed this GF recipe that is just perfect for Chicken Caesar Salads.

Linda's Gluten-Free Fried Chicken

Brining— I like using chicken thighs when I make fried chicken for the two of us. Eight bone-in thighs fit perfectly in my favorite frying pan without overcrowding, and I like the moistness of the dark meat. Obviously, use whatever pieces of chicken that you prefer. I also almost always use a brine for all poultry and pork that I cook these days, because the meat is so much more flavorful and juicy if you take the time to do it. We sisters also brine our shrimp. Here is a link to a brining recipe and instructions by Michael Ruhlman that I like very much. The recipe allows you to vary the concentration of your brine depending on how much time you have to brine your meat. For the brine recipe click here. The brine recipe yields enough salty liquid to marinate 5 pounds of thighs.

Frying/Baking Method—I also do not cook my chicken until done in the frying oil, nor do I need it to completely submerge the chicken pieces in hot oil. After I let the coated pieces of chicken fry on the meatiest side down until nicely browned, I flip the piece over and fry it on the bottom until brown. When browned to desired color, carefully pull each piece of chicken from the frying pan (careful not to dislodge the flour coating) and place each piece when done on a half sheet pan topped with parchment paper—keeping the meaty side up. Place in an oven preheated to 375°F and roast for about 35 minutes or until chicken temps 165°F-175°F degrees internally.

2-3 lbs of raw chicken pieces, skin on
1.5-2 cups of Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening—non hydrogenated
1 pint gluten-free buttermilk

Mix together the ingredients for flour mixture to dredge chicken (enough for 12 thighs):
2 cups Pamela's™ Baking and Pancake Mix*
1 cup Glutino's Original Gluten-free Bread Crumbs
1 tsp Italian herbs seasoning, crumbled between your fingers
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp of Celtic sea salt
large pinch cayenne
several grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

*Pamela's™ Baking and Pancake Mix should not be substituted for another baking mix. This mix contains almond flour, which allows for the lovely browning of the coating. (Sorry to those with nut allergies!)

1. Remove raw chicken from the brine mix and pat until completely dry. Place chicken in a bowl and toss with one pint of gluten-free buttermilk. This will allow the flour to stick to the chicken and add a nice tang. Can be left in buttermilk up to an hour out of the fridge.
2. When ready to fry your chicken, heat the shortening in a heavy skillet. Bring the shortening up to frying temp of 375°F. Fat should be at least an inch deep over the surface of the pan. Also preheat oven to 375°F and prep the cookie sheet or half sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Dredge the buttermilk-coated chicken in the flour mixture. Cover completely. Place each coated piece of chicken very carefully into the hot shortening with the meaty side down first. After I let the coated pieces of chicken fry on the meaty side down until nicely browned, I flip the piece over and fry it on the bottom until brown. When browned to desired color (usually 5 minutes per side), carefully pull each piece of chicken from the frying pan and place on a half sheet pan topped with parchment paper, keeping the meaty side up. Place in a 375°F oven and roast for about 35 minutes or until chicken temps 165°F-175°F internally. (When shortening has cooled slightly, but is still liquid, it can be strained through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar for reusing for additional frying of chicken. I keep it in the refrigerator at this point.)
4. Allow chicken to rest for at least five to ten minutes when removed from the oven before eating. If taking on a picnic, allow chicken to cool to room temperature. Place chicken pieces on fresh parchment and chill in the refrigerator on the sheet pan. Once chilled, wrap each piece individually in foil, or place in a flat container where chicken pieces do not rest on one another (to keep from losing your crispy coating) and store in the refrigerator until ready to put into an ice chest.

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