Southern fried chicken gets a yummy miso brine treatment
Ah, fried chicken, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
Yes, there’s no shame in my game, I heart fried chicken. And if you ask me, anyone who says they don’t is either a liar or they shouldn’t be trusted, hmph! Growing up in the south, fried chicken was a staple, a frequent feature on our dinner plates. I don’t eat it nearly as much as an adult, but I still have random cravings for my mama’s homemade chicken nuggets, or the fried wings covered in Lawry’s seasoning salt, served out of a greasy brown paper bag at the infamous chicken spot in my home town (RIP to The Coop). As much of a foodie city Portland is, it just doesn’t have much to offer in the way of good fried chicken (I’m not going to mention the name of the ultra-popular Southern dining mecca in Portland with ridiculous brunch lines wrapped around the block, but fried chicken should not taste like hot dog water). Luckily, any Southern kitchen-dweller worth her salt has picked up at least one surefire way to fry up chicken at home. So when the cravings hit, I pull out the cast iron.
As with most cultural cuisine, we all have notions of how to prepare our dishes ‘authentically’: some swear by heavy cast iron skillets that have been seasoned for generations, while others love the drop basket convenience of a deep-frying FryDaddy; some prefer a salt brine, while others say a buttermilk soak is the only way to go; some like the crunch of a double breaded crust, while others like batter-dipped crispiness. Either way you go, there’s no one right way to make good fried chicken (despite what your granny says). Frying is forgiving, and it makes everything taste great, so don’t get too caught up and miss the joy of simple, down-home cuisine.
I’m anything but a traditionalist, so I enjoy trying something new every time I prepare fried chicken. I recently had an idea to try and incorporate miso, a fundamental ingredient in Japanese cooking, to mix things up a little in the flavor profile. Made from soy beans and rice, you’re probably most familiar with the flavor of it served in soup at your favorite sushi and hibachi restaurants. For its use in my fried chicken recipe, I incorporated the saltier variety (red) into the brine in place of some of the kosher salt. I also used it as a base in a spice rub for the chicken before breading.
What resulted was a deep, rich, umami flavor that was layered in every bite. I served an easy sweet and sour grapefruit sauce that paired nicely with the savory chicken. I strongly advise against skipping out on this one!
Miso Fried Chicken + Grapefruit Sauce
Miso Fried Chicken + Grapefruit Sauce
Crispy, juicy Southern fried chicken infused with bold miso flavor and served up with a tangy grapefruit sauce
Makes: 4 servings
- 3-3 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, bone-in, skin-on
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed + 2 cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon red miso
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- Oil for frying
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Juice of 1 large grapefruit (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- FOR THE BRINE: In a large pot, combine the water, salt, honey, fresh ginger and garlic and simmer over medium heat, stirring until the salt and honey are dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/4 cup miso until dissolved. Let cool completely, then add chicken; cover and refrigerate overnight (or up to 48 hours). Drain the chicken, saving about 1/4 cup of the brine, and pat dry.
- FOR THE SPICE RUB: In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, blend together 1 tablespoon red miso, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, ground ginger and black pepper. Rub each chicken piece liberally with spice rub and save the remaining spice mix for the flour dredge.
- In a paper bag, combine the flour, cornstarch and remaining spice mix and shake until the seasoning is well distributed; add 3 tablespoons of the brine and work into the flour with your fingertips. Drop the spice-rubbed chicken pieces into the bag with the seasoned flour, close and shake until the chicken is well coated.
- Heat about 1 inch of oil to 350 degrees F in a heavy skillet. Working in small batches, fry chicken on both sides until golden brown and crisp. (about 8-10 per side for white pieces, 13-14 minutes per side for dark pieces). Transfer the chicken to a wire rack to drain for a few minutes before serving.
- FOR THE SAUCE: In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter and add the minced garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Add the grapefruit juice, honey, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper; stir and reduce the liquid until thickened. Serve with chicken.