Comfort food is called that for a reason – that edible warm-hug feeling you get along with all the happy memories they bring. Well, goodness knows this has been a year where we need some comfort and joy. Comfort foods come in all shapes and sizes, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a list of such dishes in which fried chicken doesn’t feature. The concept of locking in that delicious juiciness of the chicken can be found in cuisine around the world, be it Japanese katsu, Brazilian frango á passarinho or Singaporean prawn paste chicken. It’s believed that it was the medieval Scots who originated the idea of frying chicken in fat.
Perhaps the first place most people’s minds go as the home of fried chicken is the southern USA. The varieties are many and the history fascinating, deeply entwined with the history of American slavery. It is believed that enslaved women combined the Scottish and West African techniques of frying chicken and it developed from there into what we broadly know as “Southern Fried Chicken.”
While I expect it has been happening for many years, the coalescence of sweet and savoury food seems to be particularly booming in recent times. In particular, the use of honey/syrup to bring out the salty decadence of fried chicken has really caught my attention. This dish uses that as a jumping off point, infusing the honey flavour of honey nut cornflakes into the crust itself. The cornflakes also provided an excellent shell to lock in the moisture of the chicken, while the subtle nuttiness of the cornflakes maintain a warm savouriness.
- Chicken – I broke down a whole chicken into pieces using this video as I enjoy the variety of pieces, but this will work for any cut you prefer. I’ve used it for small nuggets too. Just be careful to consider adjusting cooking times for the size.
- 2-3 eggs
- Plain flour
- Honey nut cornflakes
- Plain oil – vegetables, sunflower, peanut all work
- Once your chicken is portioned to your liking, place all the pieces in a large bowl and coat liberally with buttermilk. Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour, preferably overnight. Remove it from the fridge at least half an hour before you need it to ensure even cooking. I know what you’re thinking but don’t skip this step, the buttermilk both tenderises and flavours the meat.
- Prepare your breading station. Using either a food processor or a plastic bag and rolling pin, crush a few handfuls of honey nut cornflakes until as small as you can get them, then transfer to a bowl large enough for your largest piece of chicken. In another bowl, combine a few tablespoons of flour with a teaspoon each of paprika and oregano. Finally in another bowl whisk your eggs.
- One at a time lift a piece of chicken out of its bowl and allow excess buttermilk to drip off. Gently place in the flour and either using the wet-hand dry-hand technique, or a couple of forks coat the chicken in flour, then transfer to the egg and coat equally as thoroughly. Finally place in the crunchy nut cornflakes crumbs and coat fully.
- Pour oil into a large saucepan/frying pan until it’s a few cm deep. A good rule of thumb is to make it just deeper than half way up your largest piece of chicken. Heat until it’s hot enough that a piece of bread crust immediately bubbles when dipped in. Reduce the heat to medium and place in a few pieces of chicken. Don’t crowd the pan or the cool chicken will bring down the temperature of the oil too much and it won’t cook well. Allow to cook for a few minutes, carefully turn over, then cook for a few more minutes on the other side.
- When each piece is cooked, put on a wire rack over a baking tray inside a warm oven – around 120C. This will keep them warm and allow them to keep gently cooking while you cook the other pieces. For this reason I tend to start with the thickest piece of chicken. Always cut into the thickest part of each cooking batch to check it is cooked all the way through. If it isn’t, allow it to cook for longer in the oven covered in foil. That way the inside will cook but the coating won’t burn.
Serve with your favourite fried chicken food pairings – mash, sweetcorn salad, cornbread, coleslaw, gravy. It’s all good.