The U.S. Embassy in Canberra threw a hell of a party for the 4th of July this year. They bought an amazing chef to town to cook up a southern feast. Tory McPhail is the Executive Chef at the iconic Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Before Hurricane Katrina, Commander’s Palace was the longest continually operating restaurant in the U.S. The restaurant is 131 years old! The Embassy even ran a competition to choose a writer to come along, quiz Chef Tory and document the party. Canberra’s own MasterChef contestant won, you can see what Tash had to say about the day over at her blog.
The whole affair made me want to bite the bullet and make this fried chicken recipe I’ve been toying with for ages. Rather than use the Colone’s seven secret herbs and spices, or a Cajun blend, I mixed my spice blend with all Australian native herbs and spices. The idea came to me when I bought a bunch of kunzea from Paulette, of Provenance Growers at the Farm Gate Market in Hobart. It’s an amazing herb, with minty characteristics with a slight thyme and citrus kick. I had to give the blend a kick with some pepperberries. Bush tomato, or kutjera provides the fruity characteristics that would otherwise come from chilli or paprika, and also brings a slight bitterness to the mix. Saltbush adds a lovely herbaceous salty quality and hey presto, we have a rocking blend for fried chicken! You can use any chicken cut with a bone. I used wings because it was what I had, but be sure to adjust your cooking times to make sure your chicken is cooked through if you are using a larger cut like the thigh or leg.
|2||teaspoons||bush tomato pieces|
|4||pieces||free-range chicken, bone in|
|peanut or vegetable oil for frying|
Combine the herbs, spices and salt in a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. Place half this mixture into a bowl with the buttermilk and chicken pieces, stirring to evenly coat the chicken. Refrigerate for at least three hours.
Pour enough oil into a medium sized frying pan to come 2 centimetres up the side. Place on a medium-high heat.
Combine the remaining spice mix in a bowl with the flours. Remove the chicken from the marinade bowl and coat with the seasoned flour mixture. Leave the pieces in the flour for a minute to allow the flour to stick properly. Then shake off any loose flour and set the chicken aside. Do you know those lumps of buttermilky flour that gather on your fingertips when you’re preparing dish like this? Well, save some of those lumps to test the temperature of you oil. The oil is so hot that it bubbles as soon as you drop in one of these lumps.
Add the chicken pieces one at a time, allowing the oil a little time to come back up to temperature between additions. Add the big pieces first. Cover the frying pan and let the chicken cook for at least seven minutes before turning the pieces over. Towards the end of the cooking, turn the pan up to very high to get a good golden coating on the chicken.
Remove the chicken from the pan, allowing them to drain on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.
I finely chopped a few lemon myrtle leaves and stirred them through some mayonnaise to serve with this. It was a great accompaniment. By serving these two with some of my naturally fermented sauerkraut, I ended up with a wonderful trinity of classic flavours. You could of course drop the lemon myrtle mayo and fermented cabbage and serve the chicken with a simple coleslaw if that’s more your thing.