Thomas Keller’s Lemon-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is an essential part of my husband’s annual birthday feast. This may be the best version I’ve ever made. Not only was the meat incredibly tender from the lemony and garlicky brine, the seasoning in the crispy coating was super delicious as well. Fabulous.

The recipe was first published in Food and Wine in 2007 and then updated and re-published as a staff-favorite recipe in 2022. It was contributed by Thomas Keller who serves it every other Monday at his restaurant Ad Hoc in Napa Valley. The recipe was adapted from his book Ad Hoc at Home.

I adapted the recipe by modifying the method and proportions, and by substituting boneless, skinless chicken thighs for bone-in chicken pieces. I brined the chicken the day that I fried it. I also used a countertop electric skillet to more easily maintain an even cooking temperature- absolutely life changing. (Thank you to my Mother-in-Law for giving it to me!)

I made 15 chicken thighs- enough to have leftovers for days. That’s how we like to extend birthday celebrations in my house. 🙂 I included instructions on how to successfully re-heat the chicken below.

We ate the fried chicken with Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, Sweet Potato Spoon Bread, and green salad with Ice Box Buttermilk Salad Dressing. We completed the feast with Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. Perfect. ❤

Yield: Serves 8 to 12

For the Brined Chicken:

  • 8 cups (2 quarts or 1/2 gallon) cold water
  • 1/2 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 2 T honey
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, halved crosswise
  • 1 T black peppercorns
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 10 to 15 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

For the Seasoned Flour & To Finish the Dish:

  • 3 cups (about 12.75 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • 2 T onion powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 cups whole buttermilk
  • about 2 quarts canola or peanut oil, for frying
  • fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish
  • fine sea salt or ground fleur de sel, for garnish

To Brine the Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the water and salt; stir until dissolved.
  2. Pour the salt water into a 2 gallon zip-top bag inside a large pot. (I used a stainless pasta pot.) Add the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, parsley, and lemon halves; stir to combine.
  3. Add the trimmed boneless, skinless chicken thighs, being sure they’re completely submerged; seal the bag. Refrigerate for 10 to 12 hours. (Do not refrigerate for longer than 12 hours or the chicken may become too salty.)
  4. Remove chicken thighs from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the meat. Discard the brine.
  5. Let the chicken stand until it comes to room temperature, about 30 to 45 minutes.

To Coat and Cook the Chicken:

  1. Fill a 12-inch electric skillet with about 2 quarts of oil; heat to 320-325 degrees. (Alternatively, fill a large pot with oil to a depth of 2 inches; heat over medium to medium-high to 320 degrees.)
  2. Set a wire rack over a foil and paper towel-lined, rimmed, baking sheet. Reserve for cooked chicken.
  3. Line a second rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Reserve for raw chicken.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Divide the mixture between two glass pie dishes (about 1 1/2 cups each).
  5. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Season with remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  6. Working with one chicken thigh at a time, dip the chicken in the first bowl of flour; turn to coat and pat off excess. Dip into buttermilk, letting excess drip back into the bowl. Dip into the second dish of the flour mixture.
  7. Transfer the coated chicken to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining pieces. (I continued to do this while simultaneously starting to cook some of the chicken thighs.)
  8. Carefully lower the chicken thighs into the hot oil, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a temperature of 320 degrees. (I cooked 3 thighs at a time.)
  9. Cook for 2 minutes, and the carefully turn over using tongs, continuing to cook and turn as needed for even browning. (I had 1 set of tongs for transferring the raw chicken and 1 set of tongs to turn the chicken while cooking.)
  10. The chicken is cooked when it is a deep golden brown, very crisp, and an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion reads 165 degrees, about 9 minutes total.
  11. Transfer the cooked chicken to the prepared wire rack set over the lined baking sheet. Let it rest while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Sprinkle with fine sea salt to taste, if desired.
  12. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs or chopped herbs. (Alternatively, the rosemary and thyme can be cooked in the hot oil for a few seconds before being used as a garnish.)
  13. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Notes:

  • The original recipe recommends cooking chicken breasts and wings at 340 degrees, if using instead of thighs or drumsticks.
  • If using bone-in skin-on chicken (the best meat-to-crust ratio is achieved using 2 1/2 to 3 pound whole chickens), let the pieces rest skin-side up. Modify the cooking time as needed to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees (about 12 minutes for thighs and drumsticks, 7 minutes for breasts, and 6 minutes for wings).
  • To reheat leftover fried chicken do not be tempted to use a microwave! Reheat uncovered, placed on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Art Smith’s Turkey & Pinto Bean Chili

This simple and flavorful chili is a lighter version of a classic beef chili. It is wonderful healthy option. It was included on a list of Food and Wine magazine’s best chilis.

The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Art Smith. In the article he said, “(this) turkey chili is a big favorite of Oprah’s.” I modified the proportions and added additional toppings. We ate it with corn muffins and green salad on the side- it was still “healthy-ish!” 🙂

Yield: 6 to 8 

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
  • three 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup beer (such as lager)( I used Negra Modelo)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • sliced scallions or chopped chives, for garnish
  • sour cream, for serving, optional
  • shredded cheese, for serving, optional
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the turkey and cook over medium-high heat, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir the turkey, season with salt and pepper, and cook until no pink remains, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the cooked turkey to a bowl.
  3. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and the remaining turkey.
  4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the onion to the pot. Cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, chile powder, cumin, oregano and chipotle powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  6. Return the turkey to the pot.
  7. Stir in the carrot, bell pepper, tomato puree, beans and lager and bring to a boil.
  8. Stir in the stock and vinegar, cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
  9. Add the thyme, season with salt and pepper and serve, garnished with scallions or chives.

Thomas Keller’s Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter

While unloading my CSA box, I spoke with another member about what she was making with all of the butternut squash we were receiving in our share. She said that there was no better way to use it than this soup! It was a great recommendation.

This recipe was adapted from Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon,” via The New York Times, contributed by Amanda Hesser. Hesser described it as “astonishingly flavorful and complex.” It was creamy, silky, and incredibly delicious. I made it for my mom on her birthday! 🙂 It would also be wonderful as part of a holiday meal.

I loved that it incorporated leeks, shallots, and yellow onions- and brown butter, of course. The toppings also gave it a lovely presentation.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 3-to-3½-pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs sage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks (about 2 leeks)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots (about 2 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, more if needed
  • Bouquet Garni made of 8 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs Italian parsley, 2 bay leaves and ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, all wrapped in a packet made of 2 green leek leaves or cheesecloth
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.) Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the neck off the squash and set it aside. Cut the bulb in half and scoop out and discard seeds. Brush each half inside and out with about 1½ teaspoons of the canola oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper and tuck a sprig of sage into each. Place cut-side-down on the baking sheet and roast until completely tender, about 1 hour. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh (discard sage).
  3. Meanwhile, using a paring knife, peel away the skin from the neck of the squash until you reach the bright orange flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces (you should have about 4 cups).
  4. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons. Soak in a bowl of water. Using a slotted spoon, lift from the top before using.
  5. Put the remaining canola oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, shallots and onions and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes.
  6. Add the diced squash, garlic, 11/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and squash from coloring.
  7. Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Add the stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  9. Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes for the flavors to blend.
  10. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni.
  11. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and purée. Alternatively, use an immersion blender in the pot.
  12. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Let the soup cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  13. Place the crème fraîche in a small chilled bowl and stir in nutmeg to taste. Whisk until the crème fraîche holds a shape. Cover and refrigerate.
  14. Gently reheat the soup until just hot. If it is too thick, add a little more stock.
  15. Heat a medium skillet or butter warmer medium-over high heat. When it is very hot, add the butter and rotate the skillet over the heat as necessary to brown the butter evenly, scraping up any bits that settle in the bottom. As soon as the butter is a hazelnut brown, pour it into the pot of soup — keep a safe distance, it may sputter — then stir.
  16. Ladle the soup into six serving bowls. Top each with a dollop of crème fraîche. Grind some black pepper over the top and sprinkle on the chives. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

Turkish Grilled Chicken with Yogurt Marinade

What an amazing meal. Yogurt-based marinades are typically my favorite and this one was no exception. The chicken was incredibly tender and packed with flavor.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Lidey Heuck. The recipe was inspired by Turkish chicken kebabs.

We ate this grilled chicken with Zucchini and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Yogurt – it was a wonderful accompaniment. I also served warm naan and brown Basmati rice on the side.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used whole-milk Greek yogurt)
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 T chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
  • 1 T olive oil, plus more for the grill (or pan)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp Morton), plus more for serving
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 1/2 to 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 10 thighs)
  • chopped fresh parsley or oregano, for serving
  1. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, oregano, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Zest the lemon over the bowl, reserving the rest of the lemon for serving. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Add the chicken thighs, toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 24. Remove chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
  4. If using a grill, clean and oil the grates. Set the grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, heat a grill pan slicked with olive oil on the stovetop over medium-high.)
  5. Grill the chicken for 6 to 8 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the thighs), covering the grill halfway through if necessary to retain heat, until cooked through, with an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  6. Transfer the chicken thighs to a platter and squeeze half the lemon over them.
  7. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley, and serve with lemon wedges or lemon slices on the side, as desired.

One-Pot Brown Butter Corn with Chicken Thighs

I have a couple more late-summer corn recipes to share. This wonderful weeknight dish was very quick to prepare. We ate it with steamed CSA green beans drizzled with basil vinaigrette and roasted potatoes, also from my CSA share. Perfect.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I modified the method and proportions.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 8 to 10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 ears fresh corn
  • 1 cup torn basil leaves, chiffonade
  • lime wedges, for serving, optional
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, for serving
  1. Trim chicken thighs and pat dry. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Rub garlic and thyme on chicken, and set aside while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan with a lid available.) Add oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter, letting butter melt.
  4. Add chicken and sear, undisturbed, until browned on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, cut the kernels off the corn cobs. (I hold the corn upright in the center of a large bowl and cut off the kernels with a paring knife.)
  6. Over medium heat, add remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the skillet. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides and it smells nutty and toasty, 2 to 3 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it doesn’t burn.)
  7. Add corn kernels and a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Sauté until tender and golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add chicken back to the skillet. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and corn is caramelized, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat and taste corn, adding more salt and pepper if needed. (I removed the chicken prior to seasoning the corn.)
  10. Stir in basil, scallion slices, and squeeze 2 lime wedges over the top.
  11. If chicken was removed from the pan, scoop corn into a serving dish and top with the chicken.
  12. Serve garnished with more sliced scallions, basil and/or lime wedges, as desired.

One-Pot White Bean & Sausage Stew

This is another one-pot, cold weather, comfort food stew. Before our first snow, I rescued some rosemary and thyme from my garden- I was so happy to incorporate both in this dish. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I added parmesan rind to the pot while the beans were simmering. I also modified the method and used an immersion blender to purée some of the beans after they were cooked to add creaminess to the finished dish.

The recipe can also be adapted to make in a slow cooker, noted below. Easy and delicious with rich and deep flavor.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1+ pounds sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick (I used 5 links)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 4 cups (1 quart) water
  • 4 cups (1 quart) chicken or turkey stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • parmesan rind, optional
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • minced parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and stir for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the beans, 4 cups water, 4 cups stock, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.
  7. Then reduce heat to low, add the parmesan rind (highly recommend!), cover the pot, and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged. (I covered the pot and did not have to add any additional liquid.)
  8. To add creaminess, use an immersion blender to purée some of the stew. (I blended for about 10 seconds.)(Alternatively, 1 or 2 cups of beans can be removed, puréed, and returned to the pot.)
  9. When beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with more vinegar and olive oil, if desired. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

To Make the Stew in a Slow Cooker:

  1. Add all of the ingredients, except the sausage and garnishes, and 7 cups water/stock (instead of 8) to the machine.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours. (It holds well on low for 2 more hours.)
  3. When you’re ready to serve, roast the sausage on a sheet pan at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  4. Slice and add the sausage, as well as any accumulated juices from the pan, to the soup. Warm through and serve.

Chicken Stroganoff

My husband was raised on comfort food dishes like this. 🙂 He loved this version, of course, but it was really my son who could have eaten the entire bowl on his own. Egg noodles are definitely a crowd pleaser!

This recipe was adapted from Cook’s Country. I actually doubled the recipe to make sure that we had plenty of leftovers. (The original proportions are included below.) I reduced the amount of butter and increased the amount of garlic.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 12 ounces (6 cups) egg noodles
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons table salt, divided, plus salt for cooking noodles
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry (can substitute with extra chicken broth or water with freshly squeezed lemon juice)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add noodles and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain noodles, return them to pot, and toss with 1 or 2 tablespoon(s) of butter. Cover to keep warm.
  2. Combine 2 tablespoons flour, mustard, paprika, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Add chicken and toss to thoroughly coat.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.)
  4. Add chicken and spread into single layer, breaking up any clumps. Cook, without stirring, until browned on bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir and continue to cook until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate.
  5. Melt remaining tablespoon (or 2) of butter in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Add mushrooms, onion, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until any liquid has evaporated and vegetables just begin to brown, 7 to 9 minutes.
  7. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, thyme, and remaining 1 tablespoon flour and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  8. Stir in stock and sherry and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits.
  9. Add chicken and any accumulated juices and cook until warmed through and sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.
  10. Off heat, stir in sour cream until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Transfer noodles to a serving dish or individual shallow bowls and spoon stroganoff over top.
  12. To serve, sprinkle with parsley and extra paprika, if desired. Serve with extra sour cream on the side, if desired.

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