World Chefs: Schrager tracks best U.S. fried chicken recipes

Chef Lee Brian Schrager, author of "Fried & True" and founder of the Food Network South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals, holds a board of fried chicken at Holeman & Finch in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2013. REUTERS/Random House/Evan Sung/Handout via Reuters (Reuters)

By Richard Leong NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lee Brian Schrager's passion for fried chicken led him to travel around the United States and convince celebrity and local chefs to share their recipes in his new cookbook "Fried & True." In the book co-written with Adeena Sussman, Schrager shares more than 50 recipes for fried chicken from his contributors including double fried chicken and another with Asian-inspired ingredients. The 55-year-old founder of the Food Network South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals spoke to Reuters about what makes the best fried chicken and sharing recipes. Q: What is the secret to making great fried chicken? A: The right temperature with the frying oil. If the oil is too hot, it’s going to be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. If it’s too cold, it will get too greasy. Starting the oil at 370 degree Fahrenheit (188 degree Celsius) is the key. Q: What do you look for in fried chicken? A: Very, very crunchy on the outside and still juicy on the inside. The recipes I like best all these years that I have tasted and made are double-fried. You are frying it first, letting it sit and re-frying it in a higher-temperature. Q: How willing were chefs to sharing their recipes? A: Everyone from Thomas Keller and Nathan Myhrvold share their recipes. The ones who didn’t share their recipes in my mind are because they didn’t have a recipe and haven't anything written down. Certain people probably tweaked their recipes so they are not exactly what you get at their restaurants. Q: Which recipe was the toughest to obtain? A: I’m a big Popeyes (a U.S. restaurant chain) fried chicken fan. They would not meet with us in the beginning ... I wrote to the CEO directly. They then decided to give us 45 minutes of their time on a Monday morning last July. It ended up being 2-1/2 to 3 hours. They didn’t share their actual fried chicken recipe. They certainly let us into their test kitchen and clearly we saw the ingredients that went into it. We didn’t get the quantities and all the names. We were able to piece together to what they were doing. Q: How often do you eat fried chicken now? A: I don’t have it any less but I don’t have it any more. I’m probably tempted to try it more when I’m traveling to a new place. I often order it for the table just to sample it by taking a bite. Wylie Dufresne’s Popeyes-style Chicken Tenders (serves 4 to 6) For the Brine 1-½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 12 2-ounce chicken tenders 4 cups buttermilk 1 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce (or more to taste) For the Breading 3 cups (13.5 ounces) self-rising flour ½ cup (2 ¼ ounces) cornstarch ½ cup (2 ¼ ounces) potato starch 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sea salt, plus more for seasoning 4 tablespoons (1 ounce) paprika 1 teaspoon (.176 ounce) baking soda 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) onion soup base, ground in spice grinder until fine 7 teaspoons (1 ounce) Italian Herb Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix, finely ground Canola oil for frying Brine the chicken: In a large, nonreactive bowl or Ziploc bag combine the chicken, buttermilk, and hot sauce; cover and refrigerate overnight. Bread the chicken: Sift all breading ingredients 3 times through a flour tamis or very fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, discarding any lumps. Working in batches, remove 4 or 5 tenders at a time from the buttermilk marinade and toss in the breading, coating well. Transfer to a baking sheet and let rest until the breading adheres, 15 to 20 minutes. Fry the chicken: While the chicken rests, add 2 inches of oil to a large (at least 6-quart) pot and heat to 300 degree Fahrenheit. Working in batches, fry 4 to 5 tenders at a time until brown and crisp, 5 minutes per batch. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Once all the chicken is fried, season lightly with salt. (Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Nick Zieminski)