Dante Fried Chicken. Well, if you are going to pick fried chicken as your raison d’etre, you might as well make it part of yourself. When I first heard of DFC, I thought it was a bit of a joke – you know, one of those things where some guy is trying to big himself up especially when dealing with something that’s usually been the realm of KFC. But his “Ride or Fry” pop-ups were getting some good press in the US and when I saw he was doing a special one here in London for just 20 squids, it seemed worth a punt. And damn if he didn’t convert me into a believer!
I’m ignoring the actual event (I’ve written a review of the location, Catch, elsewhere) and focusing on the chicken because that’s really what matters. Each bite was tender and impossibly juicy for something that just came out of a deep fryer. The batter was crunchy without any hint of oiliness and filled with a spicy flavour that lingered on the tongue. I’m was impressed beyond words and devoured my serving – in fact, the main complaint among my group was that despite being full, we wanted more!
Alright, so the chicken was incredibly but how does he do it? The question pestered me for a while. I’ve brined chicken before roasting and frying, and it was tender but didn’t have quite the same depth of flavour as Dante’s creation. I gave in and bought the Ride or Fry cookbook to find out. Just as an aside, the cookbook is a beauty and a worthy addition to any collection.
There are a number of appealing recipes, but I chose the “Credit Cruch Chicken” to test out Dante’s method. Turns out the secret is brining the chicken overnight in a buttermilk and spice mixture which keeps it tender and juicy but also gives it a smooth almost creamy texture. The batter incorporates what Dante calls “bits” – basically all sorts of crunchy things that add a variety of textures to each bite and almost makes each mouthful unique. The cookbook is incredibly helpful and provides information such as the perfect temperature range, time to cook, and even colour of the chicken.
My attempt was pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I couldn’t help devouring two pieces despite having had dinner a couple hours earlier. I’ve just finished off the rest with a side of katsu curry (not sure if you’ve ever thought of doing that DFC, but it works!). The outcome wasn’t perfect as my batter wouldn’t hold to the chicken and fell off as a shell when I cut into it.
A bit annoyed, I tweeted Dante to ask his advice and within minutes I had a number of suggestions for why I didn’t manage to pull off a perfect copy of his chicken. The most intriguing one is that the chicken needs to dry for 20 minutes after being battered (or you can use a hairdryer to speed up the process). I wonder if this helps bind the batter to the chicken – I will have to give it another go this weekend and report back! Stay tuned for more chicken news! Same bird time, same bird channel.