My husband loves fried chicken.
Doesn’t matter if it comes from a fancy restaurant or a grocery store deli counter or KFC: he loves it. (In fact, he claims to love KFC the most, which is something I cannot quite wrap my head around.)
So guess what I got him (us) for a (belated) Valentine’s Day gift this year?
I MADE THAT CHICKEN. Well…sort of.
Saturday night, we headed to The Cooking School at Irwin Street for a little education in the form of Southern Buttermilk Chicken and Biscuits taught by Chef Diana Darris, aka the “Food Diva.”
A cooking class. I know. I KNOW! It’s such a trite date-night-y thing to do. But it was actually really fun, and now we know how to make fried chicken!
Tacked onto a funky sandwich/ice-cream shop in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, Irwin Street’s space is unpretentious and welcoming. Mismatched dishes and brightly painted, slightly sloping concrete floors hint that Irwin Street is going for a warm and cheery vibe.
Chef Diana kicked things off by pulling out three large bags of chicken, which she’d marinated overnight in buttermilk and herbs. She walked us – ten students, total – through the process of taking the chicken from marinade to platter.
After the demonstration, we washed our hands and got to work.
We tasted our first batch of chicken and everyone agreed that it could use a little more seasoning. But Chef Diana “fixed” it by whisking together a spicy honey glaze (clover honey, hot sauce, creole seasoning) and drizzling it over the chicken.
Once we’d cranked out enough chicken for dinner, we moved on to biscuits.
Oh, beguiling biscuits. It’s a good thing this class wasn’t graded because I’d have failed. I did something terribly wrong with my dough and it ended up far too dense. Fortunately, everyone else’s turned out great – and, oh god, they were great. Not that I’m a connoisseur, but those were definitely the best biscuits I’ve ever had!
I won’t spill all of the stuff we learned in the class, but here are a few general concepts that stuck with me:
- Use every step of the preparation as an opportunity to add flavor. Nothing touched our chicken that wasn’t seasoned in some way – Chef Diana even “scented” the cooking oil with rosemary and turkey bacon while it was heating up. The flour and the buttermilk in which we dipped and dredged the meat were both spruced up with spices, too.
- Be gentle with the flour. Both the chicken and biscuits are best when light and fluffy. That means sifting the flour and using a light touch when handling it.
- Take your time. Chef Diana instructed us to let the chicken pieces, dredged and ready to to fry, to sit for a few minutes before cooking. Apparently this “activates” the flour and its rising agents, which leads to a fluffier crust.
It was a fun night and I definitely learned a thing or two. My only complaint is that the class ran quite a bit longer than I expected it to, and I was STARVING by the time we sat down to actually eat our projects! Overall, though, it was a great experience.
Thanks, Chef Diana!
Soooooo clearly, I was down in Atlanta this weekend. The main purpose of the trip (besides spending time with my husband, of course) was to seal the deal on our housing situation. We’re, um…getting there.
And I’m back in Raleigh now. Two weeks to go until moving day. I guess it’s time to start packing…