Frying chicken for the masses is, for us, one of those cooking tasks we do our best to avoid. Not only do we imagine being stuck, apron clad, by the stove all night, but we start to resent our tiny apartments when we wake up two days later and they still smell like oil. Our solution is to minimize the time spent cooking, and the mess, by reducing the amount of chicken we fry in the first place. Here, a small portion of fried chicken becomes the accent on a crunchy salad that’s been dressed with our interpretation of buttermilk dressing. This salad gives a nice Southern accent to an appetizer, or you can serve larger portions as a main course. It’s cool, crisp, and tastes like summer in each heavenly bite.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Fried Chicken Salad with Black Eyed Peas & Buttermilk Dressing
Because of the double coating, the chicken stays crispy longer than you’d think; you can make it an hour or so ahead of time and re-warm it in the oven if you need to.
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 small breasts)
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
about 1 ½ cups safflower oil, or other neutral oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed well and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into very thin slices
½ cup canned black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 recipe Buttermilk Dressing (follows)
Cut the chicken into small pieces about 1 ½ inches long. You should have at least 12 pieces. Place them in a small bowl and cover with the buttermilk. Let sit for 25 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
Combine the flour, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Pick up a few chicken pieces from the buttermilk and let the excess liquid drip off. Place them in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Repeat with all the chicken pieces, then lift them up out of the flour, shake off the excess, and return them to the buttermlk. Toss again (your hands may get a bit gluey), then transfer the chicken pieces back to the flour and toss again, making sure each piece is fully coated.
In a deep pan, warm about 1 ½ inches of oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. When a flick of water across the surface sizzles like crazy, you’re ready to go. (If you use a thermometer, the oil should be about 350°F.)
Fry the chicken in batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. You want to fry each piece for 3-4 minutes, until the crust is golden and the chicken is fully cooked. Remove from the pan and drain on a rack set over a cutting board or cookie sheet.
When all the chicken is cooked, assemble the salad. Toss the romaine and the celery with ¾ of the dressing, adding more to your taste. Divide the dressed lettuce among 4 salad plates. Divide the beans evenly among them, then top each plate with 3-4 pieces of fried chicken. Serve immediately.
Note: You can fry the chicken 1 hour in advance. Reheat in a 350°F oven for 5-8 minutes before assembling the salad.
Makes about ½ cup
2 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
¼ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon cream (optional; or use more buttermilk)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
Place the scallions in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to shred them. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. Taste for balance of flavors, adding more vinegar or salt to taste.