Gaining Elevation: Kickin’ Chicken

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Welcome to Gaining Elevation, a column dedicated to kicking your kitchen game up a notch. We’ll explore classic and often-used recipes, and get professional insight into how to get great results every time. From desserts and cocktails to mains and sides, nothing’s out of bounds!

It’s by no means a complicated or overly fussy dish, but it can be surprisingly tough to get fried chicken just right. When it’s perfect, it’s irresistible: golden and crispy on the outside, juicy and flavorful on the inside. But when we try to make it in our own kitchens, it too often ends up with a coating that’s overcooked, interior meat that’s undercooked, or somehow we manage to do both?

Chef Jesse Rezin of the Rendezvous Bistro shared some insight as to how he makes some of the best fried chicken in Jackson Hole, and how you can make it turn out just as well at home.

Achieving bone-deep flavor starts more than a full day before you’re ready for your chicken dinner. Start by breaking down the chicken into breasts, legs and thighs. Rezin uses an initial brine of water, crushed garlic, honey and salt, and lets the chicken soak for 24 hours. “Brining meat of any kind introduces a whole lot more flavor,” he explains.

fried chicken sando

Mix it up, and turn that fried chicken into a sandwich.

Rezin then transfers the meat to a second brine of buttermilk and just enough Louisiana Crystal hot sauce to make the liquid pink. He lets it soak for 3-4 hours. “It’s the buttermilk that lets the fry adhere to the protein,” Rezin says. Skipping this step will result in a crispy coat that simply falls away from the meat at first touch – a disappointing result.

Next, Rezin dredges the chicken in the restaurant’s fried chicken flour blend, and drops it into 350-degree oil. He only lets it fry for a few minutes, and then repeats the process: a dip into the buttermilk mixture and then back into the flour blend. He then repeats the frying process until the crust is golden brown. “Be sure to use a deep pot with plenty of oil,” he advises. “You don’t want to try and pan fry this chicken.”

Then, he pops the chicken into the oven. This two-phase cooking process helps avoid the dreaded discrepancy of overcooked exterior, undercooked interior. When the internal temperature of each piece reaches 165 F (anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes depending on thickness), it’s ready to hit the plate. “Having a good meat thermometer is key,” says Rezin. “Otherwise, you risk overcooking dark meat until it’s dry and tough.”

Beyond its excellent flavor, this recipe has another bonus – it scales very easily for any group size. One chicken is perfect for a family dinner, or go big with multiple birds for a BBQ or dinner party!

Occasionally, though, the craving for flawlessly flavored, crispy chicken strikes and must be filled tonight. Sometimes you just can’t wait 24 hours! Here’s the great news: Chef Rezin is looking out for you. He’s got some ready to go. All you’ve got to do is head over to the Rendezvous Bistro and pull up a chair.

Rendezvous Bistro Fried Chicken

Ingredients

    For the chicken:
  • 1 chicken, broken down
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • Louisiana Crystal Hot Sauce!
  • Oil for frying
  • For the brine:
  • 2 1/2 gallons water 
  • 1/2 cup smashed garlic
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup salt
  • For the breading:
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cayenne 
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

Instructions

  • Break down whole chicken into breast, leg and thigh.
  • Brine in water mixture for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours, take chicken out of brine, cover with buttermilk and enough Crystal hot sauce to make liquid turn pink.
  • Soak for 3-4 hours.
  • Dredge chicken in fried chicken flour combination and fry at 350 F for 2 minutes.
  • Place chicken back in buttermilk mixture, dredge again and fry until golden brown.
  • Bake in the oven until internal temperature reaches 165 F for 15 seconds.
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About Author

In full rebellion against the unpredictable climate of the Rocky Mountains, you can find Melissa on her deck grilling any month of the year. Typically in flip flops. Snow, rain, wind… no weather is too fierce. She’s a lover of peaches in any form, has a borderline addiction to arugula, and (strangely) has been known to drizzle soy sauce on pizza. But even more than she loves her stand mixer and cast iron collection, she adores cooking for her husband and young daughter. When this Jackson Hole native isn’t scurrying around her messy kitchen, she’s probably outside floating the river, hiking, camping, fishing, or, well… grilling.

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