“Why don’t you make more chicken?” that’s the cry often heard from the long line outside Federal Donuts when the fried chicken runs out. One of Philly’s most talked about mini-chains, FedNuts (as its affectionately known) is from the team behind award-winning stunners like Zahav. According to Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story — the new cookbook from chef Michael Solomonov and his business partners, Steven Cook, Tom Henneman, Bobby Logue, and Felicia D’Ambrosio — getting into the fried chicken, doughnut, and coffee business was a headache- and heartburn-inducing challenge. There were squabbles, there was hate mail, and they often ran out of doughnuts or chicken — or both. But they persevered. That grit coupled with a great product is probably why Fednuts is still going strong, and gearing up to expand.
Though doughnuts are in the name, the shop is just as well-known for its fried chicken, which at least one Eater editor claims is the best she’s ever had. Here’s how they do it, from cure to batter to that crispy, crunchy, golden skin: The key to this recipe is in the cornstarch and the double-fry, both of which are techniques borrowed from Korean fried chicken. The skin turns almost translucent once fried a second time, ensuring that each bite is shatteringly crisp. This recipe is time-consuming, but the results are worth it.
Master Fried Chicken Recipe
Fried chicken waits for no one, so have your spice blends and glazes ready before you start frying. Season the chicken immediately after it’s fried. Our process begins with curing the chicken overnight, or at least 4 hours ahead, and then frying it twice for an extra-crispy crust. Only then do we toss the hot fried chicken into a spice blend or brunch on a tasty glaze.
MAKES 10 PIECES
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dry mustard
3 cups cornstarch
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups cold water
1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces (including wings)
2-3 quarts canola oil, for frying
1. Combine all the cure ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Add the chicken parts and get in there with your hands to coat each piece well.
2. Put the coated pieces of chicken on a baking pan and cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3. Combine the cornstarch, our, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Slowly pour in the water and whisk until the mixture is smooth and the consistency of thin pancake batter.
Clip a candy or deep-frying thermometer onto one side of a big enameled cast-iron pot and add 2 to 3 quarts of canola oil, enough so the chicken parts will be fully submerged. Oil expands as it heats, so don’t overfill the pot.
4. Heat the oil over low heat until it reaches 300°F. Meanwhile, bring the cured chicken to room temperature — you don’t want to fry ice-cold chicken because it throws o the timing. When the oil is hot, dip each chicken piece into the batter to fully coat.
5. Hold a corner of each piece with your fingers and slide the battered legs and thighs into the oil. Be careful not to splash the hot oil! After 1 minute, add the wings; after 3 minutes, the breasts.
6. Use a spoon to make sure the chicken pieces don’t stick together or to the bottom of the pot. If they do stick, gently separate them with the spoon, without tearing the precious crust.
7. After 10 minutes total, with a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces to drain on paper towels. (The chicken won’t be fully cooked — there’s a second fry.)
8. Let the chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes. While it hangs out, reheat the oil to 350°F. Fry the chicken pieces again, this time for 4 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
9. With the slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces to drain on a rack set over a fresh paper towel–lined baking sheet. If using a spice blend, drop the hot chicken pieces right into the bowl with the spices and dust to coat. If using a glaze, use a paint brush or a silicone brush to spread on the hot glaze.