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the way home

Recipe: buttermilk fried chicken

As we started out on our last trail run in Crested Butte, I was admiring the amber glow from the setting sunlight bouncing around the aspen leaves. I absolutely love running or riding through aspen stands in autumn. The path underfoot is carpeted with the signature shapes of aspen leaves in different hues of yellow, punctuated with blacks, browns, greens, oranges, reds. When the tree tops mingle above the trail, you are traveling through a veritable tunnel of gold. Sometimes Jeremy and I run separately when he wants to log more miles and I’m fine with that. I enjoy the solitude.

off he goes

Every time we leave Crested Butte, we scrub our place down. Kaweah cautiously watches from a safe distance when her nemesis, The Vacuum, prowls every inch of the house. It’s the kind of cleaning one does when you want ALL of your security deposit back, but we just want to take really good care of it. And the day we leave, Jeremy always gets his caffeine fix in town.

the BEST coffee in town

Driving east, we encountered several snow storms on the mountain passes, sunny dry roads in the big Colorado valleys, and freezing rain in between. I followed Jeremy as he drove with Kaweah in the smaller car. Whenever he came to a stop, I saw her little head bob up as if to say, “Are we there yet?!?!” Despite icy roads and whiteout conditions, we made our way safely home.

crawling over monarch pass (jeremy and kaweah in front of me)

kaweah was so happy to be home, she immediately passed out

It’s been snowing on and off since we got home. We’ve got the heat on winter settings and snuggy flannel sheets on the bed. There’s a growing list of things to do around the house to prepare for winter. Time to swap out the bike rack for the ski rack, tune the skis, pull out the running tights and snow gear. And of course there is cooking and baking which do double duty because the house fills with mouth-watering aromas surfing on currents of warm air. Nothing is better than home style comfort food to welcome you back. Let’s fry some chicken!

whole chicken legs, onion, garlic, buttermilk, salt, sugar, bay leaf, rosemary, celery seeds, black pepper

crush the spices

grating onion

Fried chicken is a big deal in The South. I remember spending the night at a friend’s house when I was a kid and getting super excited because her mom was making her “secret” fried chicken recipe for dinner. It’s like barbecue – many opinions, versions, secrets, and plenty o’ fightin’ words. We didn’t have a secret family recipe for fried chicken. My family didn’t make fried chicken. Living in southern Virginia, there was enough (good) fried chicken to be had that you needn’t ever make it yourself. Living in the mountains of Colorado, good fried chicken can be hard to find. [Note: I know people love a certain place in Crested Butte for its fried chicken dinner, but honestly – I was disappointed.]

put the spices, sugar, and salt in a gallon ziploc bag

pour in the buttermilk

add the chicken

let it brine overnight

Ever on the lookout for good recipes that promise the results I seek, I decided it was time to delve into what makes the perfect fried chicken. Brining the chicken is a must. Crunchy outer coating, another requirement. Good flavor. Juicy. Tender. Marc had a recipe that looked like it would deliver on all those points.

flour, onion powder, paprika, celery seed, black pepper

combine all of the flour and spices in another ziploc

remove the chicken and pat each piece dry

coat the chicken in the flour

set on a rack

Be sure to save the buttermilk brine when you remove the chicken, because you will use it for dipping the chicken once you strain the solids out. I especially liked that Marc double coated the chicken (more crunchy!) and let the legs sit out to dry for an hour before frying. It’s a bit of a messy process, but if you are a fan of crunchy skin, I recommend it.

strain the buttermilk

dip the floured chicken in the buttermilk

coat a second time

dry on a rack

fry to a golden brown

The verdict? VERY juicy and tender chicken. The skin is crisp and crunchy with plenty of seasoning. I think the spices were a bit much for me. Perhaps I will dial back the amount of rosemary, bay leaf, and celery seed the next go around. Also, I think I will add some garlic powder to the flour mix next time. But overall, this made for a great dinner and I especially enjoyed MY fried chicken with a dash (or seven) of Tabasco sauce. Good stuff.

welcome home

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
[print recipe]
from No Recipes

1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, finely grated on a microplane
1/2 small onion, finely grated on a microplane
2 cups buttermilk
2 tbsps kosher salt (1 tbsp if using table salt)
1 tbsp sugar
4 whole chicken legs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp ground celery seed
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
oil for frying

Grind 1 teaspoon of celery seed, the rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf together. Place the ground mixture in a gallon-size ziploc bag with the grated garlic and onion, buttermilk, salt, and sugar. Seal the bag and mix everything together (shake or smoosh). Put the chicken in the ziploc bag with the buttermilk brine. Squeeze out any excess air and seal. Refrigerate overnight.

Combine the flour, onion powder, paprika, ground celery seed, and ground black pepper in another gallon-size ziploc bag. Seal the bag and shake to mix. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine and pat the chicken dry. Strain the buttermilk mixture into a shallow bowl and reserve the liquid (discard the spices). Place one piece of chicken in the flour mixture bag and seal. Shake until it is well coated. Remove and set on a baking rack. Repeat for the rest of the chicken. One at a time, dip each piece of chicken in the buttermilk mixture and coat in the flour mixture again. Set all the pieces on a baking rack to air dry for at least an hour or longer. Heat 2 inches of oil over medium high heat to 340°F. Add the chicken and try to maintain a temperature of 320°F. Fry the chicken for 12-15 minutes total (flip them over when the bottom is turning golden brown). The outer crust should be golden brown, but if you want to check the chicken for doneness, remove it from the oil first before cutting into it unless you like being splattered with hot oil. Drain on paper towels and rest for a few minutes. Makes 4 whole chicken legs.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

asian chicken sandwich barbecue chicken chicken fried steak and cream gravy miso butter roast chicken

8 nibbles at “the way home”

  1. Kristin says:

    Wow…some of those passes give me fits in the summer…I don’t know if I’d make it when there’s snow, although that road looks pretty good! The chicken looks delicious, even to this not-a-fried-chicken-fan.

  2. Science Teacher Mommy says:

    This buttermilk method works great for skinless chicken too. Double dipping still gives an awesome crunchy coating without the skin. Once I discovered that buttermilk was the key to really great fried chicken (I’m not from the south either) I also found that it is a fantastic ingredient in lots of other things too. Years ago we live in Texas, I had a friend (very much from the south) give me a recipe for chocolate cake that had buttermilk in it. When I told her I didn’t have buttermilk in the fridge she was appalled!

  3. Jorge says:

    Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your postings. The recipes are easy to prepare, they are always a pleasant surprise and your photographs are just spectacular….You are an Artist!

    I know you don’t allow to copy and paste your recipes and photographs and that it is a real pity as the recipes loose their impact without the photos of steps when preparing the recipes….

    Still I very much look forward to your postings and to prepare your selected dishes…I live in Cartagena, Colombia and I Thank You very much for sharing your talent!

    Warmest Regards,


  4. jill says:

    Super cute coffee shop! I’m never showing TPH that chicken recipe! Yikes, we’d be butterballs.
    I’m sure Kaweah WAS exhausted, watching out for you, and the longgggg winding drive. She is a dear. Love that photo.
    hugs, jill

  5. Lisa says:

    I love fried chicken but never cooked any myself. The only ones I got was from KFC. But this recipe looks doable for me.

    The CAMP 4 coffee is great and I enjoyed it very much when I was there in July.

  6. Allie says:

    Hey Jen, I’m wondering how you handle fresh herbs like the gorgeous rosemary in this recipe, or fresh oregano/thyme, etc. Do you buy it at the grocery store each time for recipes, or do you have houseplants?
    So far I’ve just got a basil plant but I’m wondering if it might be good to buy a thyme, rosemary & oregano if they’re easy to keep.

  7. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    I love fried chicken and this sure beats Albertson’s. But that will do in a pinch!

  8. jenyu says:

    Kristin – yeah, it can get dicey in winter. Usually you’re fine if you drive carefully, but there are douchecanoes who like to drive like maniacs when it’s not appropriate (well – it’s never appropriate to drive like maniacs).

    Science Teacher Mommy – yes, I’ve tried it since! It’s good (but not as good as chicken drums). And buttermilk is magical stuff :)

    Jorge – Oh, you are totally allowed to copy and paste for your own use (to print or save for yourself). It’s just those people who steal photos and recipes and try to make money off of other people’s work. But very sweet of you to honor my copyright. Yes, feel free to print it out for yourself! xo

    Jill – ha ha ha!!! It’s not THAT bad. xxoo

    Lisa – I’ll make the chicken for you, Mom :)

    Allie – oh, I have killed so many innocent herbs in my house… The only two herbs I have living in my house are a mint and a Chinese chive. I’ve resurrected them from the dead about a half dozen times each. No, I have to buy herbs to use in my recipes. I wish I didn’t, but our weather in the mountains kills most things and then my travel schedule seems to kill off herbs regularly… Sad, I know :(

    Abbe – ;)

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