Ad Hoc Fried Chicken

I’m not obsessed with Thomas Keller.  OK, I have been whining that I can’t get in to the French Laundry while I’m in Napa, but I will be eating at Ad Hoc.  And yes, I do own the Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook, which happens to have the famous Fried Chicken recipe, which I have recently remembered that I really love!

Of course, Ad Hoc only serves Fried Chicken twice a month, on alternate Mondays, and I won’t be there on a Monday, so I won’t be able to order it, BUT, there is a kit – from Williams Sonoma (and others) that enables you to replicate the dish. 


The Cooking Channel show The United Tastes of America recently did a segment that shows how the Chef at Ad Hoc cooks the dish, and he cooks light meat and dark meat at different temperatures, but I hope home cooks can adapt.  I will try this after vacation.


1 gallon cold water

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

12 bay leaves

1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

3 large rosemary sprigs

1 small bunch of thyme

1 small bunch of parsley

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons (Note: On the TV show, there were lemon halves in the brine)

Two 3-pound chickens

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 cups buttermilk

Vegetable oil, for frying

Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish

  1. In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over.  (NOTE: On the TV show, there were 3 dips:  Seasoned flour, buttermilk, then flour again – I would do it this way). Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
  4. In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330°. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160°, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.

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