This recipe is serendipitous; if not for our move it wouldn’t have been created. I have been experimenting with a gluten free fried chicken recipe for almost a year, relying heavily on the corn flour, Masa Harina, which is ubiquitous in Sunnyside, Queens. It creates a grainy surface and is good, especially with spicy sriracha mayo, but it wasn’t really like the southern fried chicken I have loved my whole life. Masa Harina is unsurprisingly not common in the Catskills and when I set out to make fried chicken without it yesterday I had to rely on the motley flours that survived our move: buckwheat, gram (chickpea) flour, cornstarch and sweet rice flour. All these flours speak to our meandering past few months: I picked up the sweet rice flour at a Korean grocery in Queens that stocks a gluten free spicy bean paste I love; the gram flour at a wonderful Indian market on Long Island, and the buckwheat at a health food store in the Catskills. None of them are my go-to “gluten free” flours, as I rely heavily on brown rice flour and potato starch. Yet the combination of these flours worked magic, creating the crispiest fried chicken I have ever tasted. My sister exclaimed: “You could open a restaurant with this recipe.”
My love of fried chicken isn’t steeped in a family tradition that involves a passed down cast iron skillet. It’s a love that was cultivated in Roy Rogers, of all places. My parents were extremely food strict and we were rarely allowed junk food, except for the infrequent trips to Roy’s for fried chicken. I am not sure why Roy’s was allowed and other foods forbidden, but I venture part of the reason had to do with the Friday night old car show they hosted in their parking lot in the summer months. My father was and still is an avid fan of old American cars. These memories are dear: a rare family trip off the farm, classic American cars displayed by proud owners and a shared bucket of fried chicken. I always made sure to get a thigh (arguably the best piece because of the crispy skin and moist flesh).
Fried chicken should be crispy and peppery, and here I added a LOT of freshly cracked black pepper, ground white pepper and a few pinches of cayenne. Frying chicken can be intimidating and good technique is required when frying chicken properly. My first attempt resulted in a burnt outside and raw inside that swore me off cooking it for a long while, but Melissa Clark’s brilliant timing (6 minutes flip, 6 minutes flip and then another 5 minutes) works perfectly! Just remember to keep the temperature constant. The secret is not to crowd the pan or pot. If the temperature of the oil fluctuates you will get greasy, unevenly cooked chicken pieces. I did them in batches (only three at a time), which wasn’t as laborious as you might think. I don’t like using a lot of oil because it is wasteful, but if you are a time-is-money sort of person and don’t want to spend an hour frying chicken, use more oil. The brine ensures that the chicken is moist and flavorful and the combination of flours creates the crispest of crusts.
chicken resting on baking sheet
When I first started to cook without gluten, my eyes would glaze over when bloggers listed more than four flours in a recipe. The idea of having so many flours in my pantry seemed terrifying, but I have since realized that experimenting with a variety of flours can be fun if not illuminating. I was forced to use sweet rice flour (preparing for our move I stopped buying pantry items) for a recipe because I didn’t have potato starch. With the sweet rice flour I created the crispiest fried soft shell crab with a Thai basil sauce and realized how wonderfully crisp the sweet rice flour can be fried (recipe to come when I am by the coast again). Just delightful! The gram flour is also delicious fried. I am sure you could substitute the buckwheat flour with rice flour, and the cornstarch with potato starch if need be, but I think both the sweet rice flour and the gram flour are necessary for this recipe.
Breaded chicken before frying
Gluten Free Fried Chicken
- 3-4 pounds chicken, in pieces (I used thigh and drum stick pieces)
For the brine:
- 1 gallon water
- ½ cup sea salt or kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- cracked black pepper
- a handful of herbs you have handy, minced ( I used oregano, chives and rosemary)
For the dipping:
- 1 ½ cups homemade buttermilk (1 ½ cups milk with juice of half a lemon)
For the crispy coating:
- 2/3 cups sweet rice flour (103 grams)
- 1/3 cup lentil flour (46 grams)
- 2/3 cup buckwheat flour (100 grams)
- 1/3 cup corn starch (43 grams)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)
- Preferred oil for frying (peanut oil or lard)
1 heavy bottomed cast iron pot or skillet
2 large containers, 1 for brining, another for shaking the chicken pieces in the flours
1 baking sheet, paper towels and a drying rack
- Using a large gallon+ container, assemble the brine by adding the water, salt, minced garlic and herbs along with freshly cracked pepper.
- Cut the chicken into frying pieces. Add to the brine. Brine overnight or at least 6 hours.
- When you are ready to fry the chicken, make the buttermilk and reserve.
- Mix the flours together well, along with the salt and pepper. You will use a container to dredge the chicken, using a bit of the flour mixture each toss.
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot (I used an enameled Dutch oven) to 350 degrees. (Check with oil thermometer)
- To bread the chicken dip in the butter milk, then place the pieces one or two at a time into the container and toss with at least ¾ cups of the flour mixture. Do this just before you are going to fry them in batches. If the flour mixture becomes too clumpy, replace it with more.
- Cook the pieces in the hot oil approximately 6 minutes, turn and cook another 6 minutes and then cook for about another five minutes. Don’t crowd the pot! (I only did 3 pieces each round).
- After they are done, place them on a rack set over a baking sheet and paper towel in a warm place. Flip about a minute after setting them down. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked!
Written By Ulla on July 20, 2012