Southern fried chicken with smoky maple caramel


  • Serves 4 people

Fried buttermilk chicken is irresistible - and even more so with a smoky, savoury caramel sauce. A warm cabbage slaw would make this a meal. Begin this recipe a day ahead to marinate the chicken.

  • 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 600 ml buttermilk
  • For deep-frying: vegetable oil
  • 150 gm (1 cup) plain flour
  • 2 tsp each ground paprika and ground cumin
  • 1 tsp each cayenne and dried thyme
  • To serve: lime wedges
  • Smoky maple caramel
  • 250 ml (1 cup) maple syrup
  • 40 ml Bourbon
  • 3 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
01   Combine chicken and buttermilk in a container, cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate, then drain well and pat dry with absorbent paper.
02   Heat oil in a large deep saucepan to 180C (or test with a cube of bread; it will quickly bubble and rise to the surface when oil is hot enough). Combine flour, spices, thyme and 2 tsp salt in a tray and mix well. Dust drumsticks heavily in spiced flour mixture, then deep-fry in batches, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through (8-10 minutes; be careful, hot oil may spit). Drain on absorbent paper and season to taste.
03   For smoky maple caramel, simmer maple syrup in a saucepan over medium-high heat until caramelised (10-15 minutes; maple syrup will bubble up a lot, so use a larger pan than you think you need). Carefully add Bourbon (hot caramel will spit), stir to combine, remove from heat, stir in paprika and 2 tsp sea salt, then stir in vinegar. Drizzle onto hot chicken and serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

Note When you're making caramel, stir water and sugar over heat until sugar dissolves, then let mixture boil without stirring but swirling the pan so the caramel cooks and colours evenly, brushing down the sides with a pastry brush to remove sugar crystals.

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