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Backyard BBQ: How chef Jerome Robinson makes his picnic-perfect fried chicken

Now that it’s officially barbecue season, we’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what summer dishes they’re grilling (or frying) in their own backyards, on their balconies or in their kitchens

By Tiffany Leigh| Photography by Daniel Neuhaus
Backyard BBQ: How chef Jerome Robinson makes his picnic-perfect fried chicken
Now that’s some perfect fried chicken

Like many of us, the Heartbreak Chef, Jerome Robinson, is at home more than usual these days. We asked him what summer dishes he’s cooking up. His recipe: crispy-crunchy fried chicken.

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When he isn’t making bonkers burgers or sky-high sandwiches, Jerome Robinson loves to cook up classic fried chicken—particularly during the summer. “It reminds me of being outdoors with my family and friends, at picnics in the park or on the beach,” says Robinson. “The beauty of this fried chicken is that it doesn’t have to be eaten piping hot—it tastes great even when it’s cold.” For the epic fried bird Robinson serves at his Parkdale restaurant, he honours a traditional recipe but with a few tweaks for the perfect taste and texture. “I’ve played with the ratios over the years and I finally feel like I’ve nailed it,” says Robinson. “It’s pretty simple, but sometimes simple is best.”

For a proper spread, Robinson says that this crispy and juicy chicken needs some classic sidekicks—specifically mac and cheese and coleslaw. “The creaminess of the mac makes for the perfect contrast to the crunch of the fried chicken, and the slaw acts as the perfect palate cleanser, so you can dive back in for another bite of chicken,” says Robinson. “Honestly, there’s no better combination.”

What you’ll need

4 chicken drumsticks 4 pieces of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs Two one-litre cartons of buttermilk ½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce ¾ cup black pepper ¾ cup sea salt ½ cup garlic powder ½ cup onion powder 3 cups all-purpose flour

The recipe

The day before:

Let the chicken marinate in one litre of buttermilk and the Frank’s hot sauce in the fridge for a solid 24 hours.

The next day:

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Add your dry ingredients together in one bowl and mix well.

In another bowl, pour in the second litre of buttermilk.

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Set your fryer temperature to 325°F. If you don’t have a fryer, you can use the shallow-fry method: fill half of a heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet with canola oil.

It’s time to dredge: discard the buttermilk that you used for the marinade and get a tray ready. Now dip the chicken pieces into the flour mixture. Coat them well, shaking off any excess.

Dip each flour-coated piece into the new buttermilk, and then back into the flour again. Doing this helps create a light and crispy crust.

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Backyard BBQ: How chef Jerome Robinson makes his picnic-perfect fried chicken
Flour power.

Lay out your mixture-coated chicken on the tray you set aside.

When your oil is hot (use an oven thermometer or stick a wooden spatula into the oil—if micro-bubbles form around it, the oil’s hot enough), slowly lower the chicken into the fryer or pan. (Be very careful because hot oil likes to spit.)

Cook for seven to nine minutes, making sure the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F

Have a new tray ready and line it with paper towel. Take the cooked chicken out of the oil and let it sit for about eight minutes. Do the roof of your mouth a favour and let it cool before digging in.

Backyard BBQ: How chef Jerome Robinson makes his picnic-perfect fried chicken
Now that’s some perfect fried chicken

 

Oh, and remember those sides? Boom.

Backyard BBQ: How chef Jerome Robinson makes his picnic-perfect fried chicken
A well-balanced meal. (Okay, maybe not according to the Canada Food Guide, but oh well.)

 

Eat and enjoy. Thanks, Jerome!

Backyard BBQ: How chef Jerome Robinson makes his picnic-perfect fried chicken
This smile is brought to you by fried chicken.
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