Cornmeal-dusted fried chicken
1 hour, 25 minutes plus chilling times
: 2 to 4
2 Cornish game hens, or 1 small (3- to 4-pound) fryer chicken
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons finely minced rosemary
2 cups buttermilk, more if needed
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups corn flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
1. Wash the hens or chicken and dry thoroughly. Remove the backbone from each bird (cook this with the other pieces or save for another use), and cut the remaining chicken into 8 pieces (2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 thighs and 2 legs — 9 if you include the backbone). If the breasts are large, cut each in half crosswise to make a total of 10 pieces.
2. In a deep, medium bowl, combine the kosher salt, orange zest and juice, minced garlic, maple syrup and minced rosemary to form a rub. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl, massaging the rub all over each of the pieces. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least several hours.
3. The next morning, pour the buttermilk over the pieces and gently toss to coat; the buttermilk should barely cover the chicken; if not, add just enough to roughly cover. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours for game hen, 6 to 8 for chicken.
4. Place the flour, corn flour and cornmeal in a large bag, bowl or baking dish and season with the table salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste the blend and adjust the seasoning if desired.
5. About 1 hour before frying, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Remove each piece from the buttermilk, shaking gently to remove any excess buttermilk (do not attempt to dry the pieces). Dredge each piece in the seasoned flour mixture, coating completely. Shake to remove the excess flour, and set the pieces aside on a rack to dry and warm to room temperature.
6. While the pieces are resting, prepare the oil: Place enough oil in a large heavy skillet to come up the sides by about three-fourths inch, and add the bacon. Heat the oil over medium heat, very gently frying the bacon until crisp and the oil is hot (be careful — as the bacon fries, it will pop and splatter when it is close to done). Strain the bacon (save it for another use), and check the temperature of the lard; a thermometer inserted should read 325 degrees.
7. Gently place the pieces, skin-side down, in the hot oil, being careful not to crowd. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees and fry the pieces on each side until crisp and golden brown and the meat is firm and opaque, about 5 minutes for game hen and 7 to 8 pieces for chicken. Flip the pieces over and fry on the other side until done (a thermometer inserted in the meat should read 160 degrees). Remove the pieces from the hot oil and drain, skin-side up, on crumpled paper towels. Repeat until all the pieces are fried.
8. Serve the pieces hot or at room temperature.