When Jonathan Gold was gathering people at his house in Pasadena for a night off from eating out, fried chicken was usually what he made.
The funny thing about it is that, like an urban legend, there are certain details everyone remembers and others that vary from eater to eater. For a guy who spilled it all on the page, who let his life be captured on film for a documentary, it was probably good to have a couple secrets in the tank, particularly when it came to the too-rare times he let loose at the stove for a crowd.
There is no guarantee that the recipe below will earn you the adulation that Jonathan’s earned him, though it’s a good place to start.
Jonathan Gold's Barefoot Fried Chicken
Working on a large cutting board, break each chicken down into whole leg, whole breast pieces and whole wings (discard the backbones or save for making stock). Divide the whole legs into thighs and drumsticks, and cut all the breasts in half crosswise. Place all the chicken pieces in the largest bowl you have and pour over the buttermilk and hot sauce. Toss with your hands to evenly coat the chicken, then wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate the chicken at least 12 hours and up to 24.
Set 2 large Dutch ovens on 2 stove burners. Pour olive oil to a depth of 2 inches in one Dutch oven and melt enough lard in the second pot until it comes 2 inches up the side. Place a deep-fry thermometer in each pot and heat each to 350 degrees.
While the oil heats, assemble a frying station: Set a rimmed baking sheet next to the stove and line the bottom with a double-thick layer of paper towels. Place a wire rack upside down over the paper towel-lined sheet. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and oregano and whisk to combine. Transfer the seasoned flour to a large brown paper bag.
Working in batches, lift pieces of chicken out of the buttermilk, letting the excess drain, then add to the paper bag. Close the bag and shake the chicken to coat in the seasoned flour. Open the bag, remove the chicken and gently lower half of the dredged pieces in the olive oil and the other half in the lard.
Fry the chicken, tending to each and turning as necessary while maintaining the temperature of each fat, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. While each batch fries, toss a couple pieces of country ham into the lard fryer to flavor it and the chicken.
Use tongs or a spider to lift each chicken piece out of the oil or lard as it’s ready and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, along with any pieces of ham. Season each piece of chicken with salt. Continue frying more chicken while you serve the cooked chicken hot.
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