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Ad Hoc Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken

Adapted recipe from Thomas Keller
Serves: 8

3-3/4 liters (1 gallon) cold water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
Two 1-1/2 kg (3-pound) kosher chickens
3 cups whole wheat self-raising flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish

In a very large pot, combine 1 liter (1 quart) of the water with the salt, honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Cool completely and stir in the remaining 2-3/4 liters (3 quarts) of cold water. Add the chickens, making sure they are completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces. Make sure you keep the chicken on the bone to ensure moistness.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne. Put cold water in a medium size bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the water, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

In a very large, deep skillet, heat 2.5 cm (1 inch) of vegetable oil to 165C (330F). Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 71C (160F), about 20 minutes. Drain the oil from the chicken on paper towels, and keep warm in a low oven while frying the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.

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