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Recipe: Fried Chicken With Lard

FRIED CHICKEN WITH LARD

Once a season we treat ourselves to fried chicken, using fresh chicken (freshly butchered, never frozen) and lard. It is admittedly a bit fussy, but such a treat: juicy meat, crispy crust. My mouth waters just thinking of it. 

Ingredients

  • 4.5 lbs (pasture-raised) chicken, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large (pasture-raised) egg
  • salt
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour (spelt flour also works!)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 lbs or 4 cups (pasture-raised) lard

Preparation

  1. Combine the paprika, peppers, garlic and oregano in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk, egg, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 tablespoons of spice mixture in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss and turn to coat. Secure the bowl with a tight lid (or transfer to a freezer bag) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight, tossing the chicken in the mixture to coat chicken evenly.
  3. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt and the remaining salt mixture in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the marinade from the bowl and work it into the flour with your fingertips (this creates beautiful craggy coat of batter). Remove one piece of chicken from the bag, allowing the excess buttermilk to drip off, drop the chicken into the flour mixture, and toss to coat. Continue adding chicken pieces to the flour mixture one at a time until they are all in the bowl. Toss the chicken until every piece is thoroughly coated, pressing with your hands to get the flour to adhere in the thick layer.
  4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the lard to 350°F degrees in a 12-inch straight-sided cast iron chicken fryer or Dutch oven or a large wok over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature, being careful not to let the fat get any hotter.
  5. One piece at a time, transfer the coated chicken to a fine-mesh strainer and shake to remove the excess flour (shake well to remove as much excess as possible!). Transfer to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Once all the chicken pieces are coated, place skin side down in pan. The temperature should drop to around 300°F; adjust heat to maintain the temperature to 300-325°F for the duration of the cooking.
  7. Fry the chicken until it’s a deep golden brown on the first side, about 6 minutes; do not move the chicken or start checking for doneness until it has fried for at least 3 minutes, or you may knock off the coating. Carefully flip the pieces with tongs and cook until the second side is golden brown, about 4 minutes longer.
  8. Transfer the chicken to a clean wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet and and place in the oven. Cook until the internal temperature of part of the breast reaches 150°F and the legs reach 165°F, 5-10 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces to a second rack or paper-towel-lined plate. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Adapted from The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt and Cook’s Country, Lard-Fried Chicken.

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