During our last chat together I mentioned the love of a good ol’ southern fried chicken picnic and it got me thinking that with everything I have shared over the years I have not waxed poetic about the most insanely delicious recipe in my arsenal, Fried Chicken with Paprika Maple Butter.
Growing up, fried chicken was always a Sunday affair. It wasn’t every Sunday that this delicacy graced the table but when it did you can bet everyone came running. The best memories I have are standing at the feet of my grandmother, great aunt, and nanny when they made this delicious dish and I always begged to help. That generation is now gone and so is fried chicken Sundays but about twice a year I break out this recipe for my family to relive a bit of my past — and you can believe any leftovers find their way into a picnic basket the next day.
Through the years, many recipe tweaks, and lots of pieces of burnt chicken, I have pieced together a recipe that works for me and reminds me of the fried chicken of my past. It’s flavorful and intensely tender with a crunchy flaky crust. Of course, I had to put my stamp on it and add a maple butter with a kiss of smoky paprika to get that sweet, salty, and smoky feel.
This recipe starts with an easy buttermilk brine to tenderize and bring flavor, then a simple dusting of flour shake-and-bake style, and finishes off with a sinfully delicious maple butter. It’s not difficult but does take hours of brine time which makes this a great weekend meal. Now I know why we always had fried chicken on a Sunday.
A distinctively deliciously crisp crust and enticingly tender chicken, this Fried Chicken with Smoked Paprika Maple Butter is the perfect weekend meal.
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, drumsticks, wings, and/or breasts
- Peanut oil for deep-frying
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Large food-food grade plastic bag
- Large brown paper bag
- In a large food-grade plastic bag, combine the ingredients for the brine. Place the chicken in the brine and seal the bag removing as much air as possible. Set in a bowl for support and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, turning the bag occasionally to redistribute the brine and the chicken.
- In a large brown paper bag, add flour, baking powder, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper and shake lightly to combine. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet.
- Heat oil for deep frying (about 3 inches deep) in a large Dutch/French oven to 350°F.
- Working with four pieces at a time remove the chicken from the brine and thoroughly drain excess brine. Place chicken in the bag with the flour, fold over to seal, and shake aggressively to coat the chicken with the flour mixture. Being careful not to overcrowd, add chicken to the hot oil. Cook, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are cooked through and golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to the rack and allow any excess oil to drain from the chicken. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
- To make the butter, combine butter and syrup in a saucepan over medium heat just until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add paprika, and whisk for 30 seconds until the mixture is combined. Pour over chicken when ready to serve.
Can be made a few hours in advance. After frying the chicken, keep it on a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet in a 250°F oven until serving.