Paleo Fried Chicken and Paleo Strawberry Shortcake
Y’all. When it comes to Southern comfort, fried chicken is king. And for paleo peeps, it’s so hard to turn down the old favorite. But we know better. And now we have it all: perfectly seasoned, juicy chicken in a crackling crisp coating that will satisfy all your fried chicken dreams.
It’s been a long journey to put this recipe together. But I think once you’ve made and tasted this most excellent version, it will be your go-to favorite. It started while I was watching a chefsteps.com video about their best fried chicken. Chefsteps is cuckoo for sous vide cooking. And rightfully so. Here’s the video to see what got my wheels turning. But a sous vide set up isn’t a common kitchen tool, and I wanted to find a way to make the idea accessible to all. Having the chicken already perfectly cooked and then frying the chicken for only a couple of minutes made sense for several reasons.
Now Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe in this month’s magazine for Lemon Chicken that uses the technique of sautéing the bird pieces until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp, then finishing the cooking in the oven. I made sure to cook the white meat only to 160 degrees F., and the dark parts to 170. Even though the chicken’s final fry is a mere minutes, I didn’t want the chicken to be overcooked. I also used two methods before the fry: one batch of chicken had just come out of the oven and I let it cool down on the counter for about 20 minutes, so it wouldn’t be screaming hot when I put it in the batter. The other batch I’d cooked the day before and refrigerated. I also put it out on the counter, in this case, so it would come up in temperature and not be stone cold. Both worked beautifully.
There’s no standing over three quarts of hot grease for upwards of 30 minutes per batch, and since healthy oils are not cheap, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on this homey dish. Because you’re only cooking the coating, you only need about a cup and a half of coconut oil (you could also use lard … ummm …. yum!) And it only takes 2-3 minutes per side to achieve crackly perfection.
So then onto the batter.
One of the drawbacks to paleo cooking can be using substitute ingredients for things like wheat flour. Alternative flours often taste like their origin: coconut and almond for example. And these flavors can be very welcome in certain preparations, but truthfully, fried chicken isn’t one of them. Enter the master geeks at America’s Test Kitchen. A few months ago they published a paleo cookbook, Paleo Perfected. There are 150 recipes, most of which are not new approaches to paleo dishes. Scrambled eggs with sausage and peppers, bison chili, pan-roasted chicken with zucchini and tomatoes … these are pretty basic and common. But the few recipes that address flour-based favorites, are what I wanted to explore. And the fried chicken batter delivers in spades.
The downside to the America’s Test Kitchen recipe is that they don’t use whole chicken parts. It’s a recipe for chicken fingers. And let’s face it. That’s okay for kids, but real deal fried chicken means bones and skin. By combining chefsteps idea of pre-cooking, and using Cook’s Illustrated’s sauté and roasting method, plus their paleo batter, I think I’ve got the fried chicken hat trick.
There is just a hint of almond flavor that pretty much disappears after the first couple of bites. And unlike other paleo coatings and batters I’ve tried, this one is actually crunchy. It was still crunchy at room temperature and I re-warmed a few pieces for lunch the next day and the crispiness was all there. Harris loved this chicken. His only comment was that it was too mild. So ramp up the black pepper and cayenne, and use your own favorite flavors … this recipe can take the heat.
I do hope you’ll give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.
So what Southern icon could be more complementary to fried chicken? Strawberry Shortcake. Here I used a reader-requested cupcake recipe in Bon Appétit from the California bakery, Mustache Baked Goods. It isn’t sugar heavy; the texture is perfect; the berries only need a kiss of honey; and the topping is either whipped coconut or heavy cream.
For a tangy, fresh contrast to the chicken, make my Sneaky Coleslaw. Then it’s picnic time!!
With this country meal, you’ve gotta have some country tunes. With the exception of Willie and Merle, the artists are new. I think you’ll like their tunes.
- 1 fryer chicken legs and breasts cut into four pieces each
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp coconut oil or chicken fat or lard
- 1/2 cup arrowroot powder or potato starch (not potato flour)
- 3 tbsp finely ground almond flour
- 2 tsp sweet paprika or hot or smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 1 tsp cayenne or more or less to taste
- 6 tbsp seltzer water do not use regular water
- 3/4 tsp cream of tartar necessary for proper texture
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups coconut oil or lard
Using a meat pounder or a small heavy skillet, pound the thick end of the breast pieces to about 1/2 inch so all pieces will cook uniformly. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the skillet and add chicken pieces. Do not crowd. Make two batches if necessary. Place chicken, skin side down and cook without moving for 8-10 minutes until skin is deep golden and crisp. Remove white meat from skillet and reserve. Turn dark meat pieces over and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes.
Add white meat back to skillet, skin side up. Place in oven and roast 10-12 minutes, checking that the temperature of the white meat is just barely 160 degrees F. and the dark meat registers 170 degrees. Remove from the oven. Place chicken pieces, skin side up on a plate and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Alternatively, cook the chicken up to two days prior to frying and refrigerate. About 20 minutes before frying, remove chicken from the refrigerator and set on a plate at room temperature.
To make the batter: in a large bowl, whisk together the arrowroot powder, almond flour, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne. Whisk in the seltzer water and let sit for 15 minutes. This is necessary for the batter to properly hydrate.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Or lower the temperature to 200 degrees if you have just roasted the chicken. Place wire rack over a baking sheet and place in the oven.
Whisk in cream of tartar and baking soda. Using a deep, medium-sized sauce pan, melt 1 1/2 cups coconut oil. Be sure the level reaches just over half way up the thickest piece of chicken. This depends on the size of the pan. If needed, add additional coconut oil. Heat oil to 375 degrees F.
One piece at a time, coat the chicken in the batter and allow the excess to drip off. Gently place the chicken in the coconut oil Do not crowd the pan. The temperature will drop when the chicken is added, but must remain at or near 375 degrees or it will be greasy. Fry chicken for 2-3 minutes or until deep golden brown. Flip pieces over and fry an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken to baking sheet in the oven.
Continue frying the remaining chicken. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- non-stick coconut oil spray
- 3 cups almond flour extra fine
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 quarts organic strawberries sliced
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1 cup heavy cream or chilled top layer of regular (not lite) coconut milk
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar or raw honey
Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 325°. Lightly coat edges of cups and tops of 3 standard 6-cup muffin pans with nonstick spray and line with paper liners.
Use finely ground almond flour or sift regular almond flour through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl; discard any large pieces. Whisk in baking powder and ¼ tsp. salt.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and whisk in almond-flour mixture and 2 tsp. vanilla until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake cupcakes, rotating pans top to bottom halfway through, until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 15–20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool.
To assemble: cut cakes in half horizontally. Spoon berries on top of bottom half. Add a dollop of whipped cream. Top with remaining cake and top with additional cream and berries.
- 6 cups green cabbage very thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot grated
- 1/2 cup naturally fermented sauerkraut
- 1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp vinegar (to pickle the onion)
- 1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise (or 1/3 cup organic olive oil)
- stevia or Xyla to taste, you could also use honey
- salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
In a small bowl, add onion and vinegar. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, add cabbage, carrot, sauerkraut and drained onion. Reserve vinegar for dressing. Mix together the mayonnaise (or olive oil), stevia, and seasonings. Pour over vegetables and toss to combine. Taste, adding vinegar or other seasonings as desired.