I start with the standard milk wash. Sometimes I use buttermilk; usually I use 2% milk. Then I dredge it, dunk it in an egg wash, then roll it around in bread crumbs. Pretty boring. I have two tricks that take boring fried chicken to the next level.
First, I like to spice it up! The key to tasty chicken is to build the flavor in layers. You want spices in the milk, in the flour, and in the bread crumbs. I use salt (of course), freshly ground pepper, garlic, sesame seeds, paprika, cayenne pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Sometimes I add cumin and coriander. I will warn you right now that the amounts below are approximations. How much of any given spice I use varies based on my mood. In general, I like a fairly garlic-heavy fried chicken and a fairly light hot peppery chicken.
Second, I use Panko bread crumbs. I really like the texture they give the fried chicken. They are really, really crispy, and taste great. I find regular crumbs are a little flat both in texture and taste.
2 chicken breast halvesThe chicken is wonderfully crispy with a nice nuttiness from the sesame seeds. The Panko bread crumbs get a deep golden brown without getting oily. By putting most of the spicing in the flour, the spices retain their punch without burning or turning bitter.
2 cups of milk (enough to cover the chicken)
4 to 5 tablespoons garlic powder
3 to 4 teaspoons salt
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 to 5 drops Tabasco sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon coriander (optional)
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 to 1-1/2 cups of Panko bread crumbs
1 to 2 cups of canola oil (enough to fill your skillet about an inch deep)
Cut the chicken breast into pieces. I like break it into four pieces -- two thick and two thin. I'll start the thick pieces before the thin and get them to finish about the same time.
Put the milk, Tabasco, 1/4 of the salt, 2 teaspoons of garlic, and 1/3 to 1/2 of the remaining spices, except the sesame seeds. Mix well and add the chicken. Let sit for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Grind half of the sesame seeds into powder. In a second bowl, add half of the remaining salt, all of the remaining spices to the flour. The flour mixture will be very spice heavy.
Beat the two eggs and place in a third bowl.
In a fourth bowl, add the Panko bread crumbs, the remaining salt, and the unground sesame seeds. I don't add powdered spices to this because they tend not to mix in well.
Begin heating the oil at medium high. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, coating well, dip into the egg wash, then dredge in the bread crumbs, coating well. Once the oil is hot enough that water dances, start adding the chicken, thickest piece first. Once the first side browns lightly, turn the chicken over. Once the second side browns, turn over again. Continue frying and turning until each piece is done. If the chicken is left on a side too long, the side in the oil will get overly brown before the inside is done.
Once a piece is done, place on a rack to drain. Let rest for five minutes.
I like frying the chicken in canola oil because the oil has a relatively high smoke-point and is neutral in flavor. The flavor of the chicken and spices really shine through. The key to keeping the chicken breading from burning is to turn the chicken frequently once it has gotten brown.
I often serve the chicken with mashed potatoes or oven-fried potatoes and a steamed veggie like broccoli. The veggie makes me feel virtuous, like I'm eating healthily.