A couple of years ago, I went to Ad Hoc in Yountville enjoyed my first Thomas Keller meal. Ad Hoc was a teaser for my birthday meal at The French Laundry, which, hands down, was one of the best and most fun meals I’ve ever been to. At Ad Hoc, the atmosphere was very casual and they serve one set menu per dinner service. When I actually had the opportunity to meet Thomas Keller and tell him about my dining adventures, he specifically asked if I had tried the fried chicken at Ad Hoc. Apparently it’s a HUGE deal and it’s only served once every other week. I didn’t go on a Monday so I didn’t have the opportunity to try his fried chicken, but I was very intrigued. When Ad Hoc at Home was published, I decided that it was the first recipe in the book that I would try. I told a couple of friends to come over for dinner and we’d have a casual meal with fried chicken, apple fritters (also from Ad Hoc at Home), and lots of wine and other yummy drinks.
Ad Hoc at Home’s fried chicken is a pretty time consuming endeavor. I didn’t have a lot of the spices on hand and had to go to three different supermarkets to buy everything. Also, cutting up two chickens by myself was quite a task; I used knives that Gunther-Wilhelm lent me and it still wouldn’t cut through the chicken so I ended up using brute force (my palms). Apparently, I used TOO much force because my right palm now has a huge bruise on it from pressing down on the knives I used to cut the chicken! Thomas Keller makes it look so easy, but it definitely WASN’T. I cut up the chicken much faster the second time, but I still had to use a lot of force.
HOWEVER, the results are definitely worth it – everyone at the party really enjoyed the fried chicken and I’ve been happily eating it for the past couple of days – but it was so much work that I’d rather fly to Yountville to eat it than make it again on my own! The cleanup process was definitely not fun (since I don’t usually fry things, I decided to throw away the vegetable oil instead of saving it), but, this chicken is so moist and delicious that I can definitely see myself caving in and making it all over again.
Ad Hoc at Home’s Fried Chicken
1 gallon cold water
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
Two 3-pound chickens
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 cups buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for frying
Rosemary and thyme sprigs
Quite a list for a brine, don’t you think? In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt:
Add the honey:
And the 12 bay leaves:
Next, the garlic:
Peppercorns and rosemary:
Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves:
And bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved:
Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight:
The brine is enough for 2 chickens so I split up the brine evenly, put it in two containers, and let the chickens rest in the fridge overnight. My chickens:
Thomas Keller recommends using 2-3 pound chickens that you find at the farmer’s market, but I was having my dinner party on Saturday, not Sunday, and by the time I reached the farmer’s market on Friday, everything had closed. I also stuck in some chicken tenders to make chicken fingers (in case cutting up the chickens turned out to be a huge mess).
The next day, I cut up my chickens into 10 pieces (I don’t know how I got through this…following Thomas Keller’s step by step instructions definitely helped, but it didn’t look like he was struggling at any point in his pictures and it also didn’t look like he wanted to throw the chicken at the wall because he was so angry in any of his photographs). Apparently I don’t have any arm strength whatsoever because I used practically every knife in the Gunther-Wilhelm packet and NOTHING was helping me cut these chickens. I don’t think I had good leverage because the counter was so high, but I somehow got through it. I separated the chickens into dark meat and light meat (you cook them at different temperatures).
Some light meat with chicken tenders after I drained the chickens and scraped off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin:
I didn’t take any pictures of me cutting up the chickens because I was working by myself and didn’t want to contaminate my camera with raw chicken, but maybe I’ll post a video if I ever try to cut up a chicken again (not likely).
In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt:
Set up a station of flour, buttermilk, and more flour:
The dark meat before dredging:
Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, then dip it in buttermilk, then another dredge in the second flour mix:
Dark meat goes into a deep skillet with vegetable oil when the oil reaches 330:
Fry for about 15 minutes (until the chicken reaches 160 degrees). Once the chicken is done, set it on a drying rack so the excess oil can run off.
The white meat is fried at 340 degress until it reaches 160 degrees as well (when you’re checking with an instant read thermometer, make sure you don’t touch the bone because that will affect the read). My finished chicken:
Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot:
Ariel, Lou, me, Elliott, and Amanda before diving in:
We ate the chicken Momofuku style – Boston lettuce, carrots, and lots of hot sauce! The fried chicken was very delicious and would definitely be great for a dinner party (or a picnic!) It was a ton of work because my kitchen is still very small, but it was definitely very fun to recreate a Thomas Keller recipe. The next Thomas Keller recipe that I want to try (from the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook) is the sea bass baked in salt – it looks so impressive from the photographs! (full disclosure: Ad Hoc at Home was given to me by the book’s publisher)