I didn’t grow up in a household famous for its perfectly crisp fried chicken, made from a great great grandmother’s recipe passed down from generation to generation.
My reality of fried chicken was years stalled by a fear of frying and worse even—greasy, soggy chicken. This recipe for crispy fried chicken was my reawakening. It was born out of necessity as most things this delicious do. When Isaiah was diagnosed with his gluten and dairy intolerances, fried chicken was off the menu—literally—since we’d often get our fill of fried chicken, a popular menu item at Brooklyn restaurants, only when we dined out.
I started reading about frying. What was the easiest way? What’s the difference between shallow and deep frying? Did I need a special fryer? A splatter screen? How much oil? What kind?!
Then, of course, I needed the perfect fried chicken recipe: One that would yield an undeniably crispy shell that kept all of the chicken juices locked in, making for super moist chicken. Many attempts later, I landed on coconut milk—my secret ingredient. Let me start by saying that I don’t love the flavor of coconut unless I’m eating Indian or Thai or maybe the occasional Mounds bar when trick-or-treating on Halloween.
I can promise that at the end of this recipe, when you sit down, close your eyes and bite into a piece of fried chicken, you’ll be thinking many tasty thoughts and none will be about coconut. Sure, coconut milk isn’t the first ingredient that comes to mind when marinating chicken for frying, but much like regular buttermilk, it yields meat that’s moist and tender.
As for deep-frying, don’t sweat the technique or the deep-fry thermometer. To test if your oil is hot enough, just add a pinch of gluten-free flour to the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the surface, you’re ready to start frying.
For ingredient substitutions, please see the detailed chart at Gluten-Free 101.
Let’s get frying,
One 13-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
One 3½-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 3½-pounds chicken pieces, patted dry
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon baking powder
Canola oil, for frying
- In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, Old Bay and baking powder. Drain the chicken and dredge in the flour mixture. Place on the baking sheet.
- In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 inch of oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer measures 360ºF.
- Carefully add the chicken to the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 20 minutes; drain on a paper towel–lined wire rack. The chicken is fully cooked when an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone measures 170°F. (The fried chicken can be kept warm in a 250ºF oven for up to 1 hour or served at room temperature.)
Recipe excerpted from SILVANA’S GLUTEN-FREE AND DAIRY-FREE KITCHEN ©2014 by Silvana Nardone. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Photograph by ©John Kernick.