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Lemon Buttermilk Fried Chicken With Honey Recipe

Excerpted from ‘The Ranch Table: Recipes from a Year of Harvests, Celebrations, and Family Dinners on a Historic California Ranch’ by Elizabeth Poett

spinner image fried chicken with lemon next to it on plate
B.J. Golnick

Active time: 1 hour

Total time: 4 hours, including brining (or longer if you brine all day)

Serves: 4

When I make fried chicken, I brine drumsticks in a mixture that has lots of rosemary and lemon to add a distinctive California flavor, then I drizzle honey on the chicken just before serving. If you’ve never deep-fried anything before, the process might seem intimidating, but once you try it, you’ll see that it’s very straightforward. The trick for me is to get my cooking station organized before I start: I prepare my flour mixture and pour my buttermilk into a bowl and set them on the counter next to the stove, and I have tongs and a potholder or oven mitts nearby. That way, when I start frying, I won’t have to walk away from the stove or go looking for something; I can just focus on cooking.

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For the brine:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 5 lemons
  • 4 cups water

For the chicken:

  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 cups reduced-fat buttermilk
  • 6 cups vegetable oil
  • Honey

Special tool: Deep-fry thermometer



spinner image book cover with words the ranch table, recipes from a year of harvests, celebrations, and family dinners on a historic california ranch, elizabeth poett; woman holding plate of food on cover
Magnolia Publications/William Morrow

Brine the chicken: Combine the olive oil, garlic and onion in a Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, season it with the salt, and cook everything over low heat until the onion is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the rosemary to the pot. Cut the lemons in half, squeeze their juice into the pot (seeds and all), and add the lemon halves too.

Cook until the lemons have heated through and you can smell them but the lemon juice has not evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer the brine for about 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and transfer the brine (including the lemon halves) to a heatproof container. Refrigerate it until it’s cool, about 30 minutes.

Put the chicken legs in a nonreactive container and pour the brine on top of them. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged in the liquid, cover the container, and refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours, preferably more (up to 10 hours), to flavor the meat.

Fry the chicken: Mix the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, paprika and baking powder in a medium bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a separate medium bowl. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Dredge the pieces of chicken in the flour mixture, making sure to coat all sides, and set them on a plate or a cooling rack set into a sheet pan.

Pour the vegetable oil into a Dutch oven or heavy, deep-sided pot with a deep-fry thermometer attached to the side. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Working in batches, dip each drumstick into the bowl of buttermilk, making sure to cover it completely, dip it back into the flour mixture, turning to coat it, and then carefully place it into the hot oil. (You’ll be able to fit three to four legs in the pot at a time; make sure not to crowd the pieces or let the oil get too close to the top of the pot.) Fry the chicken, turning each piece with tongs as necessary, until it’s crisp and lightly browned, about 7 minutes.

Remove the pieces from the pot with tongs and place them on a plate lined with paper towels or on a clean cooling rack set on a sheet pan. Let the oil come back to 350°F and repeat the process with another batch of chicken. (If your chicken is on a cooling rack, you can put it into the oven, at 250°F, to keep it warm.) Drizzle the chicken lightly with honey before serving.

Tip: If you double this recipe, you’ll want to switch to new oil for the second batch.


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