Thomas Keller, one of the world’s most admired chefs who owns The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.; Bouchon in Northern California, Las Vegas and New York; Per Se in Manhattan, N.Y.; and Ad Hoc in Napa Valley, Calif., had to close his restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But never in the past 26 years since opening The French Laundry or my other restaurants across the country did anyone think we would find ourselves in the state we are in today,” he said.
He faithfully paid his insurance premiums for business interruption only to find out all policies exclude pandemics. So Keller and many other famous chefs and restaurant owners formed Business Interruption Group (BIG) to insist that insurers pay losses caused by the coronavirus to all restaurants, large and small, as a restaurant closure affects not only the employees, but the vendors, purveyors, farmers, fishermen, foragers and layers and layers of people who contribute to a restaurant.
So what do chefs do when they are at home? They cook!
This is what Keller says about his fried chicken: “There’s no secret recipe to it. I like the spiciness. I like the herbs. The chicken has flavor that testifies to the brining. It’s pretty straightforward. A classic reference point you can relate to.”
Thomas Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Makes: 24 pieces
Keller’s secret is brining, which makes the chicken incredibly moist. Don’t brine chicken longer than 24 hours; it might get too salty.
24 cups water
1 cup coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
18 Turkish bay leaves
30 unpeeled garlic cloves, smashed
3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
5 large fresh rosemary sprigs
1 1/2 bunches fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 bunches Italian parsley
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken
Bring all ingredients except chicken to boil in large pot. Cool completely. Chill brine until cold, about 2 hours. Rinse chickens, add to brine, pressing to submerge. Chill at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain chickens and pat dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to skin. Cut each chicken into 8 pieces.
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for serving
6 cups buttermilk
12 cups peanut oil for deep frying
Fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish, deep-fried for 30 seconds
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix first 6 ingredients and 4 teaspoons coarse salt in large bowl. Place buttermilk in another large bowl. Dip each chicken piece in flour mixture to coat, shake off excess. Place chicken on prepared sheets. Let st and 1-2 hours at room temperature to dry.
Pour peanut oil into heavy large pot. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pot and heat oil over medium-high heat to 320-330 degrees. Working in batches of 4 pieces at a time, add leg and thigh pieces to oil (use splatter screen to protect yourself from hot oil). Adjust heat as needed to maintain temperature. Fry until cooked through and skin is deep golden brown, turning once with wooden spoons (to prevent crust from breaking), about 13 minutes. Using wooden spoons, transfer chicken to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Transfer chicken to platter. Serve warm or let stand up to 2 hours and serve at room temperature. Garnish with herb sprigs.
• • •
Chef Joel Gott, along with his brother, Duncan, operate Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in Wine Country, San Francisco and Napa’s Oxbow Public Market in California. His wife, Sarah, is the winemaker at Joel Gott Wines and their 2006 Joel Gott ZInfandel, Lodi, goes well with the fried chicken. Chef’s coleslaw complements the fried chicken and wine.
Joel Gott’s Coleslaw
Makes: 10-12 servings
8 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (from one small head)
8 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (from one small head)
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped (I like it shredded fine)
1 bunch radishes (10-12), trimmed, coarsely grated
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon, packed light brown sugar
Combine first 4 ingredients in a large colander set over a large bowl; sprinkle with coarse salt and toss well. Let drain at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
Press excess water from vegetables and transfer to another large bowl.
Stir in cumin, caraway and celery seeds in a heavy small skillet over medium heat just until fragrant and beginning to pop, about 4 minutes. Transfer seeds to a processor, add mayonnaise, cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar and blend well. (Dressing can be made 4 hours ahead, cover and refrigerate.)
Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.
Email Audrey Wilson at email@example.com.