Winner winner chicken dinner.
I live in a multicultural corner of south London with jerk shops aplenty, where plantains are sold at little grocers on the high street and we have more than our fair share of chicken shops. Jamaican vibes and crispy chicken is a big thing round these parts, so I decided it was time I shared my version of crispy chicken perfection.
The secret to making it the ultimate crispy chicken (not just really really good crispy chicken) is simple — brining.
In my humble view, brining makes a bigger and better difference to the texture of the chook than cooking it sous vide. I might make myself unpopular with some for saying that, but I think it’s true.
After a basic 12 hour brine in the fridge you’re left with meat that once cooked, is plump, juicy, tender and super flavoursome — the perfect soft centre for a crispy outer. It’s incredible the difference it makes and you can do it on any cut of the bird — for burgers I use breast, but thigh and leg are equally transformed by brining.
Getting on board with the Jamaican vibe I added a few finger licking herbs and spices before coating the breasts in ground polenta / cornmeal — I like this casing as it’s crispy and a little chewy, and is a great change to regular breadcrumbs.
We ate them with a simple slaw made more interesting with a some lime and hot sauce, and served them on homemade brioche buns topped with rum soaked pineapple. It might be frosty here but this dinner speaks of delicious sun soaked places and makes me wonder what other West Indian inspired delights I might make. Salt cod croquettes cometh, watch this space.
For the chicken
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1l water (200ml of it boiled)
- 100g sugar
- 100g salt
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- A few cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- A cupful of polenta flour / ground cornmeal
- Half a cupful of plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 egg, beaten
- Vegetable or sunflower oil for frying
For the slaw
- 1 carrot, grated
- An apple sized chunk of red cabbage, shredded
- Half a red onion, finely sliced
- 4 tbsp mayo (skinny is fine)
- 4 tbsp natural plain yogurt (greek is fine)
- 2 tbsp hot sauce (more if you like it fiery)
- Juice of one juicy lime
For the pineapple
- Fresh pineapple in chunks
- 4 tbsp rum, simmered with 4 tbsp caster sugar until dissolved
For the brioche buns
- If you fancy making your own brioche rolls check out the Hawksmoor recipe I used here
- If not, pick your favourite burger buns, x 4
- Sliced tomato and shredded little gem lettuce to serve
Start with the brine:
- In a pan put the 200ml boiling water with the salt, sugar, bay leaf, cloves and peppercorns and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour the mixture into a large bowl or container and leave to cool, then add the remaining cold water to the mix. When the mix is cold put the chicken in and leave in the fridge for 12 hours — you could get away with 6, but 12 will give a better result.
- About half an hour before you want to eat the chicken, it’s time to do the other stuff…
On to the pineapple:
- Char on a griddle and once coloured, sit in the rum syrup to soak.
Next get the slaw ready:
Into a large mixing bowl put the mayo, yogurt, hot sauce and lime juice and mix well, then add the shredded veggies and stir until they’re coated — cover and put in the fridge until needed.
Time to get the chicken ready:
- Preheat your deep fryer to 150°C.
- In a large mixing bowl place the plain flour, thyme, salt, allspice, cinnamon and coriander and mix together.
- In another bowl beat the egg, and in another bowl place the ground polenta / cornmeal.
- Each chicken breast at a time, take it out of the brine and let it drain a little (but don’t pat it dry) then roll it in the seasoned flour, followed by the beaten egg, and finally the ground cornmeal.
- Carefully place the chicken into the deep fryer and cook for 11 minutes — don’t overcrowd the fryer or they will steam rather than fry, so you might want to do them in batches.
- Once cooked, remove and sit on kitchen paper to drain.
- Cut in half and top with the lettuce and tomato, followed by the chicken, the hot slaw and finally the charred pineapple.