Thursday, March 16, 2017

Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe Supplemental - More ruminations on Gus's Fried Chicken

It is 2017. My previous posts on Gus' Fried Chicken covered my observation that the closest that I could come to the thin, crackly crust would be with a slurry built of buttermilk and corn starch. Is that what the original Gus did back in the 50's? I'm not sure. But it is the closest that I have come in my home kitchen. I never truly cracked the spicing. I could never get the chicken spicy enough, and that was with trying different chiles, black pepper, buttermilk soaks, etc. (see my previous postings).

More recently (actually March 30, 2017 marks the date) I came across a recipe that I had not seen before that calls for an ice water batter with a 50/50 corn starch and flour mix, description of a thin batter to dip the fried chicken in, resulting in a (so said) thin, crispy crust. The writer, Diane Unger, writing for Cook's Country advised: "Ordinary water worked best, bringing to mind some of the Civil War-era-batter-fried chicken recipes I'd researched. Presumably, times were hard and water was fine." Well, this comment sent me in a whole new direction. You see, I was scratching my head, thinking about "what ingredients would have been available in mid 50's, early 60's Tennessee for the recipe? Had someone in the Vanderbilt family spent time in Korea (Korean war era) and learned about the batters used for Korean fried chicken? Maybe not, I'm thinking now after reading her recipe and comments.

Because now, I had Diane Unger mentioning the Civil War.



And so, I began searching through vintage mid to late 1800 cookbooks for batter recipes. So far, I have not turned up anything (I've looked through many vintage African-American cookbooks now without finding any fried chicken batter recipes...just dredge and fry recipes) and hope to contact Diane Unger for some recommended sources. But it would make sense that persons living in Tennessee might have family recipes passed down from that era. Example follows:



Her recipe, published in Cook's Country and republished in the Best Ever Recipes publication called for a brine of sugar, water and salt and then a batter of water, AP flour, cornstarch with baking powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

Diane Unger Interview on YouTube

Landing On Love : a website with photos showing preparation of the recipe


(Here follow my original notes from previous years. But I recommend you go back and read the original posting and the supplements here in my blog.)

Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe


It is not the Saveur Magazine recipe and it is not the Nora Jones recipe (the two most common recipes that show up when one does a search on the Internet).

The secret is that it is a slurry. You have to mix corn starch and buttermilk to the right consistency. It needs to be a slightly thicker batter ( I would describe it as crepe batter consistency, or, a slightly thinner pancake batter) and it turns out it is also important to leave the skin on the chicken to help the crispness.

I switched to Canola oil for a while ("Canadian oil low acid"), ignoring my personal opinion that Canola oil gives food a fishy smell and taste. But I am back to recommending Crisco oil or peanut oil as my personal preferences. I just don't like Canola oil.

So, here is what needs to come together for this to work.

The important thing is:
Buttermilk - 1 1/4 cups buttermilk to....
Cornstarch - 1 cup corn starch to make the basic slurry
(experiment with reducing the amount of buttermilk to corn starch to make a thicker slurry)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe - Supplemental - Further Experiments with the Recipe




Slurry:
1 cup corn starch
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Kosher salt

Note 1: It needs some more heat and it needs some of the vinegar flavor from Louisiana hot sauce.
Note 2: Added a pinch or two of sugar to the slurry to test out effect of sugar on the recipe. Not recommended. Added a noticeable and not pleasant sweetness.
Note 3: Corn starch creates a thin crunchy candy-like crust. But it needs the cayenne and paprika to add color.

An Update to My Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe in Response to an Email - 2017


A. Hi Jay,
I stumbled across your blog as part of my on-going search for the ultimate fried chicken recipe. As a Canadian living in England, I don't know if I can say for sure I've ever had a properly decent piece of fried chicken, so all my info has to come via the internet.
I've been perusing your various notes on Gus's fried chicken, and I was just wondering if you had a more fully-formed recipe I could follow. Not your "final" version, but just the recipe you're working from at the moment, with steps and instructions (brine this long, fry at this temp, use this many chillies...etc.) Is this something you have written down already, or are you more of an improviser?
Thanks so much for your hard work and dedication to such a proud (and often unappreciated) tradition. Hopefully one day I'll have occasion to make use of your calendar of Texas fried chicken picnics, and try the real deal.

Cheers, John



B. Hello John! Thank you for this great email.

I lived in the UK in the early 70's and remember watching the change as more and more American fast food chains came to the UK. We used to go to that original Hard Rock Cafe to get a "proper" hamburger. So much has changed. Now I am sure that KFC is everywhere. I am not certain if the UK has Popeye's or Church's fried chicken franchises yet. And actually, if you get to a Popeye's right when they open and the first chicken of the day comes out of the fryers, it can be pretty darn good.

Currently, if I am making fried chicken for friends, I am using the Donald Link Real Cajun fried chicken recipe that shows up in my March 2013 posting. It is my standard default. I use the same spices that he does, excepting the salt, because I am more sensitive to salty foods.

One of the problems we have here in Texas is that the grocery store chickens are so large that there is a problem assuring that the interior will be thoroughly cooked when the crust color is that golden brown that I desire. Thus, I remove the chicken from the fryer pan when the color is golden, and finish by placing the pieces in an oven at around 300 F to finish cooking.

(You'll note that I skip between English units and metric. My preference is metric because of its precision but I also think in terms of cups and Fahrenheit).

With respect to the Gus style batter recipe, I am now putting 2-3 cups of buttermilk in a blender, processing that with 2-3 fresh jalapeño green chiles that I have toasted on an open flame until the exterior skin is blackened, then peeling the skin and processing the softened chiles with the buttermilk. This bath is what I soak the chicken pieces in for 24 hours. I then remove them, shake off the liquid and dip the pieces in the slurry that I described to fry. This is to get some internal "heat" to be absorbed by the chicken. Though I haven't done it yet, I could see also processing several cloves of garlic at the same time for the marinade/brine.

Thus....
One 3-4 lb chicken cut into pieces, legs, thighs, wings, breast portion cut into four pieces to reduce their size.
Brined for 24 hours in a 2-3 cup buttermilk bath to which has been processed 2-3 roasted, say, 30 grams, and softened jalapeño chiles.
Removed from bath, all excess liquid shaken off and/or pieces dried with paper or cloth towels and dipped in the Gus formula slurry of cornstarch and buttermilk.

Additional note: the original Gus's recipe definitely includes/uses Louisiana style hot sauce and/or paprika. I remember how red their batter was. This recipe does not have that ingredient as I had not worked on that approach as much recently. My recent experiments were to figure out how to get the chicken to have some "heat", thus, my current method of processing jalapeño chiles with buttermilk. Actually I am using a combo of ghost pepper and jalapeño but that is another story for later.

Fried at 325F (note: here is where work needs to be done. I recently judged a fried chicken competition and they did a first fry at 300 F and then removed and did a second fry at 350 F to get the chicken very crispy....I need to work on my temperatures).

Now. My preference is for deep frying where the pieces are totally immersed and not crowded. If you prefer a pan method, that is okay too. You will not need as much oil. But the chicken may be a little greasier if the upper portion that is not fully submerged grabs more oil. Also, because the bottom of the pieces will be in contact with the pan, it will brown more.

When the chicken reaches a golden color, remove the pieces and place into a 300 F oven for about 30 minutes to assure that the interior is fully cooked (you may need to reduce the time) depending on the size of chicken pieces. This is one of the variables that will have to be worked on in your kitchen. Typically it is the breasts, not the legs or thighs or wings that are not cooked all the way through. (What you are looking for and should achieve if successful, is a thin, crackling crust as opposed to the standard, thicker more breadier crust of a seasoned flour/buttermilk dip such as the Real Cajun recipe).

You will note that I did not mention salt or pepper. That is because I do not like overly salty food and prefer to just salt my chicken after it is fried, when served at the table. If you wish, you. Any add 1 tsp of salt to the buttermilk brine. You may also decide to add 1 tsp of salt to the cornstarch and buttermilk batter. Likewise, pepper. If you use the Real Cajun recipe, just use the seasonings that Donald Link recommends.

Now. One further note. In my research around Texas I have seen chickens dipped in ice water followed by seasoned flour, milk and egg followed by seasoned flour, buttermilk followed by seasoned flour. My opinion is that ice water results in the crispiest crunch, followed by buttermilk which is a little more bready but the one most people prefer.

Be sure to plan to serve the chicken hot and don't cover it because any residual moisture or steam will soften the crust and you will lose your crunch. Thus, keeping the chicken in the oven as needed will assist.

One final note. Another "UK friendly" recipe for pan frying, if you don't want to go to this extreme on a regular basis is this very fine chicken cacciatore recipe from Giada de Laurentiis.

Giada de Laurentiis Chicken Cacciatore






Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe - 2017

(Special Note to My Readers: Also, be sure to check out my other Gus's Fried Chicken postings as these have additional information on spices for this recipe)


Today, I came as close as I have gotten to figuring out the Gus's Fried Chicken recipe.

I started this blog back in March of 2013.

It is not the Saveur Magazine recipe and it is not the Nora Jones recipe (the two most common recipes that show up when one does a search on the Internet).

The secret is that it is a slurry. You may want to think of it as a batter, but I think slurry is almost a better description since the cornstarch doesn't really fully blend in with the buttermilk (you need to keep stirring as it does separate out if left sitting). You have to mix corn starch and buttermilk to the right consistency, and then add just the right amount of paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, etc. followed by just enough Louisiana hot sauce to make it work. Too much hot sauce will affect the crispness. It needs to be a slightly thicker batter ( I would describe it as crepe batter consistency, or, a slightly thinner pancake batter) and it turns out it is also important to leave the skin on the chicken to help the crispness. (Although: I also want to try a straight hot sauce and cornstarch experiment, an icewater and cornstarch experiment, and also a whole milk and cornstarch experiment in the future).

I switched to Canola oil for a while ("Canadian oil low acid"), ignoring my personal opinion that Canola oil gives food a fishy smell and taste. But I am back to recommending Crisco oil or peanut oil as my personal preferences. I just don't like Canola oil.
So, here is what needs to come together for this to work.

The important thing is:
Buttermilk - 1 1/4 cups buttermilk to....
Cornstarch - 1 cup corn starch to make the basic slurry
(experiment with reducing the amount of buttermilk to corn starch to make a thicker slurry)
(note: I've tried a water and corn starch slurry but wasn't pleased with the results. I haven't tried a water and egg with corn starch slurry though…the egg would add viscosity. Maybe will try in 2014)

And then you will want to season to taste (I have specifically not given guidelines here as I want you to do your own homework; use your best judgement. Everyone's taste buds are different)

Paprika (this will help darken the chicken, giving it some color; I will usually do 1/4 tsp)
Cayenne (this will add heat; I will usually do a 1/2 tsp)
Black pepper (this will add heat; I will usually do a 1/2 tsp)
White pepper (this will add heat; I will usually do a 1/2 tsp)
Garlic powder (personally I just use a pinch because, for me, garlic powder adds an aftertaste to the chicken; but that is just a personal bias)
Salt (go easy on the salt; you can always add salt at the table)
Louisiana hot sauce (start off with 8 dashes per above buttermilk/cornstarch slurry)
MSG (most commercial chicken has some MSG in it; start off with 1/4 tsp and adjust to your preference with the next batch that you make)







Sunday, March 12, 2017

Houston Press Article on Houston Fried Chicken by Cuc

Houston Press - Cuc Lam - Where to find the best fried chicken in Houston

The Article for the above Houston Press Link:

Where to Find the Best Fried Chicken
in H-Town


The image of Southern comfort lies on a table where mounds of crispy, golden fried chicken are found along with collard greens, mashed potatoes and mac n' cheese with the scent of baked, buttery made-from-scratch goodness swirling above the biscuits. Picking up a bucket or box of chicken from KFC, Church's or Popeye's may be a thing of the past; nowadays, good 'ole Southern fried chicken family dinners are plentiful and available at all types of restaurants from fast casual and counter service joints to fine dining restaurants and local bars.
Through fortuitous events (and careful pre-trip food planning), I found myself sitting at a red and white checkered table at a neighborhood joint on Crenshaw Avenue in Los Angeles, just a few miles west of Koreatown called Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. Oh yes, they're not kidding about the "world famous" part. The chicken was crispy, juicy, spicy and flavorful all the way through. The fried okra, baked beans and greens made for perfect side dishes. Two words: Life Changing. Come spring of this year, a Gus's Fried Chicken should be setting up shopat 1815 Washington Avenue across the street from B&B Butchers.
Until those doors open, Houston will keep doing its own fried chicken thing. Homegrown joints like Frenchy's, Jone's and the Barbecue Inn have had folks lickin' fingers for years. Back in 2012, Katharine Shilcutt (then of the Houston Press) published a top 10 list of fried chicken places in town. Let's see if many of those still make our favorites list this time around.

I scoured the city for fried yardbird and along the way, chatted with a fried chicken guru and gathered a few picks from local chefs and food lovers.
Jay Francis is known in the blogging community as one of the leading fried chicken experts in Houston. He started publishing about his experiences on The Fried Chicken Blog in March of 2013. Francis says the Barbecue Inn is historically significant and has delivered consistently good chicken for years. "It is very mid-century and I love going to places that make me feel like I have traveled back in time," he says.

Barbecue Inn co-owner David Skrehot told the Press that the third-generation restaurant is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. "It's the little things we do that make us special," he said. "Each order takes 25- to 30 minutes to prepare and we still use grandfather's recipe from 40 years ago." A three piece mixed meal with hand-cut French fries and a tomato and lettuce salad is $14.55 plus tax.
The Barbecue Inn is located at 116 West Crosstimbers in Garden Oaks. Along with fried chicken, the restaurant also offers barbecue, seafood and steaks.
As the owner and executive chef of Laurenzo's Restaurant, as well as the new Laurenzo's Bar & Grill in Midtown, Domenic Laurenzo keeps pretty busy, but for family dinners, he enjoys the Southern fried chicken at Mia's Table at 3131 Argonne near River Oaks. "It’s a perfect place to take my five children and they have grown to love it as they look forward to the free soft serve ice cream."
Laurenzo noted that the mashed potatoes and jalapeno gravy is a perfect side for the fried chicken and the milkshake is not to be missed. The chicken plate at Mia's is $14 and comes with a choice of two sides or French fries. 

Local food lover John Karas says that Lucille's is one of his favorite places to have fried chicken. "I like Chris Williams' collards and corn bread," he says. The Holmes Farm yardbird is brined for 24 hours, then slow-fried and presented with collards, mashed potatoes and honey-thyme jus for $23. Find Lucille's at 5512 La Branch in the Museum District.

Karas also mentioned that Max's Wine Dive serves a mean chicken plate with greens and mashed potatoes. How can anyone resist a glass of champagne with fried chicken? 

Max's fried chicken is something special. The $18 shareable plate comes with three pieces of jalapeño-buttermilk marinated chicken (deep-fried slow and low), mashed potatoes, collard greens, Texas toast and chipotle honey. The meal is also available gluten-free at no additional charge. Max's Wine Dive is located at 4720 Washington and also at 214 Fairview.

Fusion Taco's chef and owner David Grossman says that he and his partner, Julia Sharaby, love the fried chicken at Grace's on Kirby. "It's always crispy, moist, and perfectly seasoned. I'm a big fan of the black eyed peas that come on the side," he says.

On the menu as Randi's Fried Chicken, the plate is served with creamy mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas for $20. Grace's on Kirby is located at 3111 Kirby in the Greenway/Upper Kirby area between River Oaks and Montrose.

Leslie Nguyen, co-owner of Bosscat Kitchen, is new to Houston and admits that she has not had fried chicken in the city. "The closest I've had to fried chicken [in Houston] is the sandwich at Krisp Bird & Batter. Chef Ben McPherson has created some really tasty combinations at his new digs at 5922 Richmond.
"My favorite is the Krisp classic; it's a blend of sweet tangy and spicy. The bun is super soft so when you bite into the chicken, you get this great crunch texture with the tangy slaw and pickles," says Nguyen. Krisp offers a variety of chicken sandwiches on the menu, including a spicy Korean style on waffles.
   
New Orleans native Percy “Frenchy” Creuzot Jr. brought another fried chicken tradition to Houston. Frenchy's opened as a po-boy stand in 1969 at 3919 Scott near the University of Houston and has been a long-time fan favorite for Houstonians who enjoy a bold, in-your-face Creole spice in their fried chicken.

A Frenchy's employee confirmed that the original Frenchy's will be closing its doors at 3919 Scott at the end of this year and moving into a larger space down the road on the corner of Alabama and Scott. There are over two dozen locations in Houston alone so there will be no shortage of Frenchy's deliciousness. A three piece combination "Campus" meal comes with a biscuit or roll, dirty rice or fries and a jalapeno pepper for $7.99.
The Breakfast Klub at 3711 Travis in Midtown also makes the list of faves. The whole fried chicken wings and waffle platter is a quintessential brunch item in Houston. Now visitors and travelers can find an outpost in Terminal A at Bush Intercontinental Airport.


An alternative to the traditional Southern fried preparation is the Korean double-fried style of chicken. Places like ToreoreBonchon and Dak & Bop offer a new type of "KFC" or Korean Fried Chicken and everyone seems to love it. Chicken is fried twice for extra crispiness and tossed in spicy or a combination of sweet and hot sauces.
Toreore has been around the longest and is located inside the H-Mart Asian market at 1302 Blalock. There are several locations of Bonchon in suburban areas of Houston like Sugar Land (coming soon), Pearland and Katy, while Dak & Bop can only be found in the Medical Center at 1801 Binz.


In 2013, the Filipino answer to fried chicken arrived in Houston with obnoxiously long lines for weeks in the Medical Center at 8001 Main. Jollibee, the famous fast food chain from the Philippines is known for its "chicken joy" and spaghetti with sliced hot dogs. Don't shake your head until you've tried it.

A New York-based halal joint at 6633 Fondren in the Sharpstown area serves up some of the best fried chicken in town. Jone's Fried Chicken stays open until 4 a.m. for those late night fried chicken cravings.
Other standouts in the city include the Angry Bird at Ritual (602 Studewood), the fried chicken plate at State Fare (947 Gessner) and Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts (601 Heights).

If you ask Mr. Jay Francis, the fried chicken guy, about the absolute best fried chicken, he'll tell you to wait until a Sunday in springtime to find it at the local church picnic.