Let the week of merriment begin! And we’ll kick it off with a bang: that’s right, there’s some Thomas Keller shit going on in the hizzy tonight.

Say hello to your gracious stand-in du jour, Leena of Leena Eats This Blog, who has the guts to take on Keller and would never use a word like “hizzy.”

My chicken turned out a bit more brown than Keller's, but perhaps good old TK just doesn't like that much brown. Perhaps he is a food racist. Or perhaps a certain bitch that wrote this sucks at deep frying. The world may never know.
My chicken turned out a bit more brown than Keller's, but perhaps good old TK just doesn't like that much brown. Perhaps he is a food racist. Or perhaps a certain bitch that wrote this sucks at deep frying. The world may never know.

Leena here from Leena Eats This Blog. At first, I worried about choosing the buttermilk fried chicken recipe from Thomas Keller’s latest cookbook, Ad Hoc, for this smackdown. I’ve read about Michelle tackling some incredibly complicated recipes on here, and perhaps “fried chicken” wouldn’t be “Smackdown”-worthy enough.

I mean, if the kind folks at Church’s Chicken can handle frying chicken, how complicated could it be? Surely a culinary-schooled trained, former chef like myself could rock that shit out in no time, right?

But seeing as how I had already purchased the ingredients, and I had used up my last “Honey, will you?” on a bag of Funyons I just HAD to have around midnight the night before (and bc I am both lazy AND cheap) a new recipe was not in the cards.

Plus, it was a great excuse to discuss Keller’s latest promotion for his cookbook through Williams-Sonoma:

Fried Chicken in a bag, which came free with my cookbook from Williams-Sonoma.

Mmmm, Ad Hoc flour and brine mix!
Mmmm, Ad Hoc flour and brine mix!

Now, don’t get me wrong–Thomas Keller is one bad-ass chef, and if I ever have the chance to meet him, I would do so many “I’m not worthy” bows, my knees would give out, I shit you not.

But fried chicken in a bag? Premixed flour with seasonings, and premixed chicken brine mix when your cookbook promotes cooking fresh with quality ingredients? Makes about as much sense as letting Rocco Dispirito serve frozen Bertolli raviolis to a million food bloggers armed with plenty of blunt objects. And just because you put little white lables that say Ad Hoc doesn’t ensure to me that these were high-quality ingredients packed by Thomas Keller’s staff and not Aldi’s quality ingredient packed by an Ecuadorian immigrant with swine flu that listens to John Tesh?

(Maybe it’s not important to you, but I’ve tasted flour exposed to such an environment, and let me tell you–it just ain’t right. Not in my house, Tesh!)

Although, I do partly blame this on Williams-Sonoma, which is known for hawking tools completely essential to the average home cook’s kitchen, like a powdered sugar shaker.

And no, this rant was not fueled by the fact that I had already begun making the brine from scratch before I peeked into my fried chicken in a bag and discovered not one, but TWO packets TK’s brine mix. Nope. I’m not bitter at all. Or cheap.

Keller suggests brining the chicken for 12 hours, but I only brined mine for 6 because I used around 1/4 of the recipe. Honestly, I’m not sure what homecook would need to do an ENTIRE recipe (2- 3lb chickens), but the full recipe could easily feed the homeless population in my local park (currently set at 16).

Hi. We are seasoned flour from Thomas Keller and we are BETTER THAN YOU.
Hi. We are seasoned flour from Thomas Keller and we are BETTER THAN YOU.

I set up my breading station as such: one bowl of seasoned flour, one bowl of buttermilk, and another bowl of seasoned flour, for a flour-buttermilk-flour dip.

Hi. I'm the most pretentious bowl of seasoned flour you may ever meet. Lets share a bottle of Cab Sauv I purchased from a boutique winery in the Russian River Valley wine region while discussing our favorite artisanal cheeses and powdered sugar shakers.
Hi. I'm the most pretentious bowl of seasoned flour you may ever meet. Lets share a bottle of Cab Sauv I purchased from a boutique winery in the Russian River Valley wine region while discussing our favorite artisanal cheeses and powdered sugar shakers.

In culinary school, we were taught to use two different hands when breading meat–one that handles the dry ingredients and one that handles the wet, so you avoid creating what is commonly known in the business as the dough claw.

Remember, I am a trained professional.

Dough claw: More rampant than teenage pregnancy and Mormons. Don't let it happen to you.
Dough claw: More rampant than teenage pregnancy and Mormons. Don't let it happen to you.

Yup. I am definitely too talented for this recipe.

The only change I made to the recipe was the cooking vessel–TK suggests a nice and deep pot so the oil doesn’t splatter out, but I like rocking out on my Grandma’s old cast iron skillet. She used to make KILLER fried chicken on it, so I felt it was only appropriate.

My pan of oil, next to a sheet pan with a wire rack for draining fried chicken.
My pan of oil, next to a sheet pan with a wire rack for draining fried chicken.

I let the pan get nice and hot, and poured over the recipe to see if TK gave any suggestions on regulating oil temp once you place the meat inside the oil. There was nothing outside of “move the chicken so it doesn’t burn and monitor oil”.

Awesome. Vague recipes rock.

Breaded chicken, waiting for a hot oil bath, and looking a bit like Jabba the Hut.
Breaded chicken, waiting for a hot oil bath, and looking a bit like Jabba the Hut.

And of course, as soon as the chicken hit the pan, the temperature spiked twenty degrees, so I lowered the temp, only to have the oil get too cold, then I had to crank it up and get it hot enough so the chicken would cook all the way through.

Hence my slightly-darker-than-TK’s-but-just-as-tasty-and-probably-a-better-dancer-chicken.

The fried chicken...uh...frying.
The fried chicken...uh...frying.

Some of the chicken looked darker than others, but I just called them “cajun” and noone seemed to notice. No one being my husband who will eat anything and my cat. Very important people.

The artsy shot of the bunch. Here, the chicken is wondering why the oil burned it, and the oil is wondering how I managed not to set it on fire.The oil did not realize the night was not over.
The artsy shot of the bunch. Here, the chicken is wondering why the oil burned it, and the oil is wondering how I managed not to set it on fire.The oil did not realize the night was not over.
The comparison shot: is darker really better? My mouth thought so. And so did the chip on my shoulder.
The comparison shot: is darker really better? My mouth thought so. And so did the chip on my shoulder.

This, despite my complete inability to fry large items in oil without burning myself or setting the oil on fire, was some damn good chicken. The meat was super juicy and the crust was crisp and flavorful, like a southern fried party in my mouth.

So what if the flour and brine was packed around swine flu? So what if my chicken wasn’t as perfectly browned as TK’s? WHO CARES if I started a small house fire because I forgot to take the oil off the heat after I finished cooking and now my cat needs to called Patches because of the missing fur from her rear end?

I came, I saw, I Ad Hoc-ed. And maybe ate my weight in fried chicken skin like Cartman. Maybe.

~LTG!