3A, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Kolkata, India
When it comes to fried chicken, you have to trust the South ,no one knows better than Southerners when it comes to battering and frying chicken. We get the need to experiment when it comes to food -- it's how we've been blessed with molecular gastronomy -- but when we're dealing with fried chicken we suggest going all classic all the time.
Britain is in the grip of an invasion. Our treasured national collection of Kebab-u-Likes, Cod fathers and Pizza the Actions is under threat from a new breed of Kennedy Fried Chickens, Chicken Cottages and the singularly unappetizing rash of Chicken Spots. In the past decade, Of course, the Colonel's advance guard arrived here in 1965 (indeed, he came over in person to open the first UK franchise in Preston), but this explosion is a more recent phenomenon – sales of fried chicken grew by 36% in the five years up to 2008, 14% more than the fast food sector as a whole.
It can't be denied that, done well, it's pretty addictive stuff: juicy meat (on the bone for maximum flavour) encased in a crisp, salty and yes, ever-so-slightly greasy crust is always going to be an attractive prospect. And while there are a few trendy food vans serving up gourmet versions, and London's first " pan fried chicken drumsticks & beer" restaurant opens in Brixton later this month, for most of us the best way to indulge is at home. That way, you can tell exactly what lurks beneath that finger-lickin' good batter . Many fried chicken recipes suggest you start with a whole bird and joint it yourself, but, from experience, I'd recommend forgetting the bland breasts, which take an age to cook through and aren't really worth it anyway, and concentrating on thighs and drumsticks
Many pan fried chicken drumstick recipes marinate the meat first to ensure maximum juiciness – either in brine, milk or buttermilk, or a combination of the two. How traditional this is is unclear – Mary Randolph's 1824 recipe in The Virginia House-Wife doesn't call for it, and neither does the 1881 work, What Mrs Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking but it's certainly popular today. Atlanta's Scott Peacock, protege of the legendary southern chef Edna Lewis, brines his chicken overnight and then soaks it in buttermilk for another 8–10 hours, while Thomas Keller marinates it in a brine flavoured with lemon and fresh herbs, dipping it in buttermilk briefly just before cooking.
Richard Ehrlich suggests milk, buttermilk or milk and yoghurt, and Tim Hayward plumps for milk – I let all of these sit overnight, while New York's Clinton Street Baking Co recommends only 3–4 hours in buttermilk. Maverick Laurie Colwin, meanwhile, doesn't bother with any kind of marinade in her recipe in the classic (and soon to be published for the first time in this country) Home Cooking, specifiying only that the chicken be brought up to room temperature before cooking. Instead she bathes the meat briefly in water or milk to give the flour something to stick to, which works perfectly well, although water does make things dangerously flaky.