This recipe is a variation of a fried shrimp recipe from the Culinary Institute’s book, The Professional Chef©. I've further modified it by using techniques and ingredients recommended by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. I tried it and it is really good, and I edited it for Food Nirvana to include missing instructions to help less experienced cooks. A similar shrimp recipe is also in Food Nirvana under Seafood.
The batter in this recipe puffs out somewhat around the chicken during frying due to the presence of eggs in the batter. I have avoided the use of baking powder used with the shrimp recipe to limit the amount of puffing during frying, as that elimination creates a better batter for frying chicken.
The best parts of this recipe are that the batter is crisp and it tastes really good and the fried chicken is not in any way oily or greasy. The batter seals instantly on immersion into hot cooking oil and that keeps out the cooking oil. Beyond that, any leftovers can later be put into hot cooking oil or simply a 300 degrees F oven to reheat them and they come out just fine, not oily.
Kenji recommends frying the chicken using a wok instead of a pot or deep skillet. He is absolutely right. A wok is perfect to make easy access to pieces while they are frying and also to avoid almost all spattering of oil outside the frying vessel. Use a wok.
The batter quantity produced from the recipe below is sufficient for three to four pounds of chicken so you may want to halve the batter ingredients. Or you may use the excess batter to make fried onion rings to accompany the fried chicken.
Note that I have included two optional ingredients, crushed cornflakes and chipotle powder. The chipotle powder gives a bit of "zing" to the batter. The cornflakes will provide a somewhat crunchy version of the fried chicken. Note also that I have not yet tried using the crushed cornflakes so you might want to experiment by frying only half of the chicken using crushed cornflakes and the other half without them. You can then decide which version you prefer. In addition, I have provided some seasoning variations at the end of this recipe that are excellent.
1 or 2 lbs. of Chicken drumsticks or thighs or wings, or breast meat deboned and cut into 3/4" thick pieces
2 extra large eggs
8 oz. of ice cold beer (if necessary you can add more after initial mixing to get the perfect batter thickness)
2 ounces of ice cold vodka
1 cup of flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root (Or pre-minced ginger in a jar, available at Asian markets.)
1 cup (or more) of Cornstarch for dredging
3/4 tsp. of chipotle powder (optional)
2 cups of crushed cornflakes (optional)
2 quarts of soybean or canola oil for frying
A frying or candy thermometer
Wash and partially pat dry the chicken pieces with paper towels. If you are using chicken breast meat then cut the breast halves into pieces about 3/4" thick and as long or wide as you want. That will allow for rapid frying with no concern about adequate cooking or darkened batter from extended frying time. Put the raw chicken pieces on a plate that has a paper towel on it. The chicken pieces should not be laying in water as they should be moist before dredging but not wet.
Pre-warm your oven to 200º F. Put a paper towel covered china plate or wide shallow bowl/serving dish into the oven to later hold the fried chicken and to help keep the pieces warm after they are served.
Put the soybean oil into a wok or into a two gallon pot and heat it to 360º F on medium heat while you are preparing the batter. Check the temperature frequently during heating with an instant read thermometer. If necessary you can adjust the heat to high to get to the right temperature when you are ready to start frying, but keep an eye on the temperature so that it does not exceed 360º F. (Note that the oil can be reused multiple times in the future, until it starts to darken. It should be poured into a separate sealable container through a sieve after it has cooled. Discard everything except the clear oil, and that includes the last part of the oil from the bottom of the pot that has accumulated various kinds of gunk in it from the frying process.)
Whisk the eggs well in a two quart bowl. Chill the eggs in the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 or more minutes. Put the flour and other dry seasoning ingredients in a separate small bowl and put that into the refrigerator for 15 minutes. The idea is to have all batter ingredients really cold prior to combining them into making the batter.
Add the ginger and then the beer and the vodka slowly while whisking gently. It will foam a lot.
Add the chilled dry ingredients mixture together with the egg and beer mixture all at once and mix gently. It is not necessary or desirable to mix until the batter is smooth. Do not mix/whisk for more than about 30 seconds. Moisture variations in different flours may create the need to adjust consistency. The batter should not be thick and it should not be runny. You will know you have the right consistency when a piece of dredged chicken coated with the batter holds a coating thickness of no more than 1/16th of an inch. Less is better as the batter will puff up slightly during frying. You can adjust the consistency if required with beer if it is too thick or with flour if it is too thin. But minimize the amount of mixing time. The basic idea is that you want the batter to be entirely crisp at the end of the frying and if it is too thick from gluten formation the outside will be crisp but the inside of the batter will be doughy.
If you decide to use the crushed cornflakes then put the cornflakes into a one quart Ziploc® freezer bag and crush them gently using a rolling pin. Then pour the crushed cornflakes into a wide shallow bowl.
Dredge each piece of chicken in a bowl of cornstarch, shake off the excess, and dip the chicken piece into the batter using tongs, making sure to coat it completely. Extract the coated piece with the tongs, let the excess batter drip off for a few seconds and then roll it lightly on the crushed cornflakes (if you used them) and then immerse the coated chicken piece directly into the heated oil that is at a temperature of 360º F. In other words, you do each piece one at a time adding each piece to the oil until you have four to six pieces in the oil. For example, do four drumsticks or four thighs but do six cut up pieces of breast. You will need to clean the tongs after immersing the last piece in a given batch to remove excess batter. Adjust the heat to maintain an oil temperature around 350º F.
Fry each piece for eight to twelve minutes, using the longer frying time for the drumsticks and thighs, turning each piece over a few times, until any given piece is medium gold in color. Then extract that piece with tongs and let the hot oil drain from it for a few seconds and then place it on a paper towel. Salt the piece immediately while it still has some oil on the surface to hold the salt. Place each completed batch into a 200º F warming oven on a plate or in a bowl to maintain a desirable eating temperature while other batches are being fried. Note also that time spent in the warm holding oven will assist in being sure the larger pieces of chicken are cooked all the way through. Be sure the oil temperature is monitored and adjusted as necessary so that it is at 360º F when each batch is fried.
Serve the chicken immediately. It is delicious!
If you want to eat the fried chicken pieces using a dipping sauce then you might make the dipping sauce from the sauce recipe provided at the end of the beer batter fried shrimp recipe. You might also look for Chinese and other dipping sauce recipes on the Internet. Duck sauce available by the quart in supermarkets is a very nice dipping sauce. I have even used Jamaican Green Sauce and it is delicious on the fried chicken.
Recipe Variations: Use 3/4 tsp of garlic powder and 3/4 tsp of dried oregano instead of the ginger. Use panko bread crumbs instead of corn flakes. Yummy!