Diane St. Clair’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Continuing my exploration of Diane St. Clair’s The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook, today I made shallow-fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I’m not usually one for fried chicken — don’t get me wrong, I love fried chicken, but it’s not exactly compatible with my diet and a lot of work to prepare — but I had four pounds of chicken thighs in the freezer that I had intended to use in something for my parents that I never got around to making before they moved away. I had the buttermilk already, and this recipe called for four pounds of dark-meat chicken parts, so it seemed like a good fit. And, of course, what goes better with fried chicken than mashed potatoes?

Both recipes are quite conventional; unlike the meatloaf I did on Saturday, buttermilk is a fairly common ingredient in both fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The chicken gets an overnight soak in salted buttermilk, then a simple flour-based breading (which could have been a good deal more spicy for my taste) and into hot oil for 25 minutes. I happened to have a small tub of palm oil so I used that rather than peanut oil; it turned out to be almost exactly the right amount for this recipe. Four pounds of chicken thighs works out to about twelve pieces, which became three batches in my Dutch oven; a serving is two pieces, so I have a good bit left over that I’ll be sharing tomorrow with my co-workers. (I’m keeping two additional servings for myself, so between that and the leftover meatloaf I’m set for main dishes for the whole week.) The chicken came out pleasantly crispy, but I had a bit of trouble with temperature control on the frying oil; apparently my frying thermometer is busted (or at least not useful when there’s only half an inch of oil in the pan) as it consistently read about 225°F when my Thermapen and my infrared thermometer both said 450°! I’m not offering pictures this time because I didn’t have time to take any, and I’m not doing a nutritional report because I have no idea how much oil was actually absorbed by the chicken, nor how much of the chicken’s internal fat rendered into the oil, nor how much of the buttermilk marinade and flour breading actually stuck to the chicken.

The mashed potatoes were definitely winners. The buttermilk adds a pleasantly tangy note to what would otherwise be a pasty starch, and the silky texture means that less butter needs to be added. However, a little bit of fresh herb flavor — perhaps chives, being the traditional choice — might have improved things just a bit. The recipe called for using a ricer, which I don’t have, but I figured that a food mill (which I do have) would be good enough, seeing as how a ricer is really just a small hand-held food mill that’s only good for making mashed potatoes. Sorry, no pictures here, either. (Please don’t tell me you seriously expected pictures of mashed potatoes! What do you think they looked like?) Two pounds of yellow potatoes made four servings of mashed at about 230 calories each.

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