I can’t believe that there has been buttermilk right under my nose the whole time I’ve been in Paris. I’ve walked right past it countless times, not even considering that it might be just the thing I’ve been looking for. You see, it is usually labeled in Arabic, with small French writing that explains, “lait fermenté.” Then Nick and I were in the store the other day, and he exclaimed, “Is that buttermilk? Lait fermenté?” I smacked my forehead. Of course. It’s been there the whole time, staring me right in the face, and I missed it!
So what was my first thought upon finding this previously unavailable (or so I thought) ingredient? Fried chicken. I don’t know why. I can’t say we were in the habit of making fried chicken back home in the States, or even if I’ve ever attempted it. It’s also not something I crave in particular. Sure I’ll read something about fried chicken every now and then, and I’ll get hungry thinking about the crunchy breading, but then I think about the mess involved in eating pieces of bone-in fried chicken, and the sad fact is that most of the time it just isn’t worth it. You get grease all over your hands and face and it’s so heavy that you end up feeling like you’ve swallowed a rock. Most of the fried chicken meals I’ve had in my life have consisted of one piece of chicken (invariably dry, yet somehow with flabby skin) and then I fill up on sides: mashed potatoes and coleslaw being my favorites. Biscuits, too, if they’re around.
But I guess I have been reading up on fried chicken recipes lately, and the Cook’s Illustrated one (in which I had absolute faith) insists on marinating the chicken in seasoned buttermilk before battering and frying. It sounded so good that it stuck in my mind, hidden away until the moment I saw buttermilk, at which point it popped out and started bouncing around again. So fried chicken it was.
Since I know almost nothing about making fried chicken, I followed Cook’s recipe to the letter. It came out fantastically. The batter was dark brown and satisfyingly crunchy, yet almost light in texture with no unpleasant greasiness. The chicken underneath was juicy and beautifully seasoned. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever had better.
As you can see, we served it with potato salad (left over from our 4th of July feast – which I’ll be posting on later, I was just so psyched about the chicken I had to write it up immediately) and a batch of our favorite buttermilk coleslaw (also courtesy Cook’s Illustrated).
Ah, Americana in Paris…