Fried & True
Whoever thought a Jewish girl from Argentina could produce one of the best takes on an American favorite? But Michy—as everyone affectionately refers to beloved Miami restaurateur Michelle Bernstein—does exactly that. On summer Wednesdays she serves an incredible all-you-can-eat fried chicken buffet—the chicken gilded with an impossibly crisp coating—that calls to mind my meals as a kid at our local Howard Johnson’s. Michy herself is a dark meat aficionado, so feel free to swap out the white meat with more thighs and legs. The cool, refreshing salad is almost an optical illusion, the tomatoes and watermelon mimicking one another until they hit the tongue.
Recipe from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager with Adeena Sussman. Order your copy here.
Michy’s Fried Chicken and Watermelon Salad
For the Brine
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
For Dredging and Frying
- Safflower, peanut, or grapeseed oil, for frying
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons hot sauce, preferably Cholula brand
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- Honey, for serving
- 1 3/4 pound wedge of watermelon, rind removed and cut into medium dice (about 4 cups)
- 2 large beefsteak tomatoes (1 1/4 pounds), seeded and cut into small dice (about 2 cups)
- 1 large English hothouse cucumber (3/4 pound), peeled and cut into small dice (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons torn dill, uncut
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Pinch of garlic powder
- Pinch of onion powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Brine the chicken: Place the chicken in a large nonreactive container or dish. In another bowl, stir 8 cups water with the sugar, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, celery seeds, and fennel seeds.
Pour the brine over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain the brine from the chicken and rinse and dry the meat completely with paper towels.
Dredge the chicken: Fill a large (12-inch) skillet just under halfway with the oil and heat to 275°F. Set a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and set aside. In a baking dish or bowl, combine the buttermilk and hot sauce. In another dish, combine the flour, Old Bay, salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess, then dip into the buttermilk mixture, then back into the flour mixture, shaking the dish to coat the chicken evenly.
Fry the chicken: Working 4 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in batches until golden and fully cooked through, 8 to 9 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the oil and drain on the rack; cool for 10 minutes. Heat the oil back up to 350°F. Refry the chicken in batches until it darkens and crisps, an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain the chicken on the wire rack. Drizzle with honey.
Watermelon Greek Salad
In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, and dill. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder; season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle half the vinaigrette over the salad and toss very gently. Add the remaining dressing to taste and gently toss again.
Reprinted from Fried & True by Lee Schrager with Adeena Sussman. Copyright (c) 2014 by Lee Schrager. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, LLC.
Photo by Evan Sung.