Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Buttermilk-brined southern-fried chicken gizzards

For some of you, I know, this is standard fare--nothing worth blogging about, particularly since it isn't my recipe. But for me this is exotic ethnic fare and one step closer to my unfulfilled pledge to eat more offal.

Also, I don't think I've ever soaked chicken in buttermilk before--the recipe calls it a brine, but there's no salt so it's just a soak--even though it's a standard Southern technique. There seem to be a few different reasons to do so. The acid in the buttermilk tenderizes chicken and, a lot of recipes say, keeps it moist. Those both seem logical enough. Acid breaks down tough proteins; Normal meat might get mushy, but tough meat gets tender. And soaking in any water-based liquid plumps up meat which lets it stay moist through cooking. Gizzards can use the help in both regards, but for a whole chicken, these days it's tough to find the old well-exercised birds would need this sort of processing.

A lot of places also say that a buttermilk soak makes the breading extra crispy. That doesn't make a lick of sense, but it does work and I think I've figured out why.

[If you'd like a bit more information, later I tried prepping the gizzards by simmering instead and compared the results. That post is here.]

The recipe I used called for soaking one pound of chicken gizzards and a coarsely chopped small onion in buttermilk to cover (maybe a cup and a half) for a day or two. I did two only because it was too hot in the kitchen the first evening.

After the soak, I drained but didn't rinse the gizzards and cut them into pieces about an inch across, removing the sinew-iest bits.

For the breading, there's an egg dip and then a simple seasoned flour coating: 1 cup flour, plenty of salt and spices of choice. My choice was Gullah Cuisine's Fried Chicken Seasoning. The recipe suggests Old Bay which could be interesting, too.

And then deep frying at 350 degrees for two to three minutes. I did a rather better job of regulating my oil temperature this time than I usually do so I'm quite pleased with that.

Here are the results--perfectly golden brown, crispy, spicy, chewy--but not too chewy--meaty, slightly gamy and slightly tangy. Yummy. In most fried chicken, the meat has a hard time competing with a highly flavored breading, but the gizzards definitely hold their own and the combination of flavors is very nice.

You can see the lovely knobbly crust. That's the extra-crispy crust from the buttermilk. Specifically, it's from the excess egg-and-buttermilk mixture that dripped into the flour as I breaded the gizzards. Because the buttermilk is thicker than standard milk and certainly much thicker than a watery brine, you get nice cohesive little lumps of batter instead of just generally wet flour. The later the batch, the more lumps adhered to the meat with more crispy flaky convolutions on the final product. Luckily, there was plenty of the breading left, so I'm keeping the leftovers in the refrigerator as a head start for the next time. Do other people do that? I don't think I've heard of anyone doing that.


kat said...

Oh my gosh those do look really tasty! I soak chicken in buttermilk when I'm going to bake it breaded in the oven & it does seem to make a big difference

billjac said...

What sort of difference does it make? Does it do anything for crispiness or just tenderization?

Elizabeth Herron said...

Thank you for these tips. The last time I made fried gizzards they were too tough. I am going to soak my gizzards tonight and make them Wednesday. Love your blog!

Kari said...

I'm making these for the fourth or fifth time after discovering this recipe last year. I love this dish, it always comes out great. Thank you!