(THE PICKLING JUICE OF JALAPENO) WILL WEAVE SALTINESS, THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF ACIDITY, AND THE LIVELY SPIRIT OF JALAPEÑO INTO EVERY STRIPS OF MUSCLES, TRANSFORMING THEM INTO SUCCULENCIES THAT LEAKS SAVOURY JUICES…
We all feel it, right? The wind is changing.
You don’t have to do much to be in the know. The signs are everywhere, twinkling strategically across the rim of lights on social medias, designed to be picked up by scavengers sniffing for fat bits. But even if you were only mildly interested in fads, or so much so as unsuspectingly reading the business section of NYTimes during an overly squeezed lunch-break… there’s still no escaping it. You would have heard it, like it or not, that as far as New York is concerned at least, burger is dead. Yes, dead, out, and over its twitching body beneath the surface of trending news, comes the unstoppably uprising aroma of soul-nurturing fried chickens being carried between two pieces of bread. Behold, a new era for the couture fried chicken sandwiches, has come.
From David Chang’s Fuku to Shakeshack’s elusive chicken shack and the other fifty shades of white-to-dark meats in between, fried chicken sandwich has finally broke free from the taboo of tiring fast food-chains, and reinvented itself as the new cool kid on the block, or at the very least, the block where it counts. Now I’ll be honest. This really makes me angry. Why does everything wonderful has to happen promptly after my departure? The High Line, the cronuts, my high school’s renovation and now this? I mean, I love fried chicken sandwiches! It’s kind of my thing! But where were they when I was right there, still looming around Manhattan spitting out dissatisfying McChicken over the sidewalk like an overly fed and self-pitying city pigeon? Where were they when I was readily unemployed, in the perfect fit for duty to stand in a line while lusting over instant feeds of trophy-images being posted by the dudes way in front of me? Where were they when I was just two, ok may be three, subway-rides and way-too-much-Taylor-Swift-on-radio away from Brooklyn and tagging myself on IG with the hottest Shack in town?
And now, outcasted and bitter, the only mean to make myself feel remotely included, I guess, is to forge my own. What would I have done, I asked myself, if I were to create a fried chicken sandwich inspired by Shake Shack’s (I’ve decided, after investigations, that Fuku is really more of a colossal fried chicken thigh-cutlet garnished with steamed buns, and that it is another subject entirely). There are basic premises that I would keep, deeming the soft potato rolls, the southern-style of batter-frying, the tangy element of a cool dressing and the classic companionship of lettuces to be, well, legit. But the agreement probably stops here. I mean, jeezes, they use chicken breasts for crying out loud, the unfounded, outdated and herd-mentality syndrome that practically murdered chicken nuggets. Well, that has to go for sure. Then, an additional element of kicks has to be introduced through two separate channels. First, the brine, or shall I say, pickling? Yes, the skinless and boneless chicken thighs are soaked for several hours in a mixture of grated onion, ginger, salt’n pepper and most importantly, the pickling juice of jalapeño, the most wasted ingredient in the kitchen pantry. It weaves saltiness, the right amount of acidity, and the lively spirit of jalapeños right into every strips of muscles, transforming them into succulencies that leak savoury juices even after the necessary frying-time to crisp up the coating. Speaking of coating, the second channel for introducing kicks and flavours, will be a batter made from sriracha sauce. Yeah, I mean, why not? It’s there for your taking, so take it. Now the only things left to bring it all together, is a hot and cool dressing made with finely chopped pickled jalapeño, herbs, mayonnaise and thick plain yogurt.
It’s big. It’s guilt-filled. It shatters in between bites, making ways for the juices to flow through, savoury and tangy, hot and cool at the same time. You’ll probably need a nap after this, and dream about having another one in the nap. But don’t feel sorry, because make no mistake about it, that everyone else is doing it, too.
The handmade embroidered plate is from Dishes Only.
- 4 skinless boneless chicken thighs (23.3 oz/660 grams)
- 1/2 cup (125 grams) jalapeno pickling juice
- 1/4 small onion, peeled and grated
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (105 grams) mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup (125 grams) thick plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup (84 grams) pickled jalapeno, finely minced
- 2 tbsp (28 grams) finely minced onion
- 2 tbsp (20 grams) finely minced scallion
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup (31 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp (9 grams) Japanese panko breakcrumbs
- 2 tsp ground cayenne
- 2 tsp ground white pepper (must be white pepper)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup (69 grams) sriracha sauce, preferably cold
- 1/4 cup + 2 tsp (70 grams) ice cold water
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- Approx 1/2 cup of potato starch (or cornstarch), plus ground black pepper for drenching
- Canola oil for frying
- Ground white pepper to dust (must be white pepper)
- Shredded lettuce and 4 potato rolls to serve
- TO BRINE THE CHICKEN: Evenly mix all the ingredients in "CHIKEN AND BRINE" together, then set aside in the fridge for at least 4 hours to 6 hours to brine. The acidity will partially turn the surface of the chickens to an opaque color, looking like it's cooked, but that's totally fine. I wouldn't leave this overnight, because the texture of the chicken would change too much for my liking.
- TO MAKE THE JALAPENO YOGURT MAYO: Evenly mix all the ingredients in "JALAPENO YOGURT MAYO" in an air-tight container, then keep chilled inside the fridge until needed.
- TO FRY: In a shallow dish/pan, season approx 1/2 cup of potato starch with some freshly ground black pepper, then set aside. Remove the chickens from the brine, and gently dab away any excess liquid and solids with a clean towel (this prevents the chickens from taking too much breading, and helps the batter stick better). One piece at a time, drench the chickens inside the potato starch until evenly coated, making sure that all surfaces are covered, then pat gently over the sink to dust off excess starch. Set aside over a rack and let sit for 5 min.
- Meanwhile, add enough canola oil into a deep frying-pot until it reaches at least 3" deep, then bring to 310F/155C over medium high heat (or until it bubbles up immediately and actively around an inserted wooden chopstick).
- In a bowl, whisk together flour, panko breadcrumbs, ground cayenne, ground white pepper, garlic powder, ground black pepper, salt and baking soda. Add sriracha sauce, ice cold water and rice vinegar, and stir with a fork just until the batter comes together. It's ok if the batter looks slightly lumpy. One piece at a time, dip the chicken into the batter until coated on all sides, then grab the chicken with a tongs and gently lower it into the frying oil, but don't let go yet. For the first 15 seconds, swivel the chicken gently in the oil with your tongs until the batter has firmed up, to prevent it from sticking to the sides/bottom of the pot. then release it into the oil completely. Keep the temperature above 310F/155F, to 330F/165C over medium heat, and fry until the batter is golden browned and crispy. Set aside on a rack to drain, and immediately dust it with more ground white pepper, and ground cayenne if you want more heat. Repeat with the remaining chickens.
- TO SERVE: Add a generous amount of jalapeño yogurt mayo on each side of a sliced potato roll. Toss the shredded lettuce with more yogurt mayo to thinly coat, and pile it on top of the bottom-bun. Put a piece of fried chicken on top then cap it with the top-bun. Serve immediately.
I like dark meat. But if you must must have white meat, you can substitute with chicken breasts for the recipe.