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Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken

July 23, 2014

By Kath Dedon

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For more than 30 years I have been hearing from Bob about how outrageous the fried chicken was at Chez Heléne in New Orleans. The chef behind the chicken was Austin Leslie. Austin had lived primarily with his Aunt Helen growing up and had learned a lot about cooking from her before working at a couple of restaurants. When Aunt Helen opened Chez Heléne in 1964,  Austin was ready to go to work for her.

I never got to try the food at Chez Heléne; Austin closed it in 1995. He moved on to other ventures and continued to cook his legendary Fried Chicken.

Austin wrote a wonderful cookbook that was published in 2000 called Austin Leslie’s Creole-Soul: New Orleans’ Cooking with a Soulful Twist. It has his chicken recipe along with many other recipes that I’m eager to try. If you like soul food, this is the real deal.

I decided to make Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken using Austin’s recipe. I was curious about how the recipe would compare with my Buttermilk Fried Chicken which we love. They’re very similar, but Austin uses a mixture of half-and-half (or light cream), a beaten egg, and water instead of buttermilk. He doesn’t soak the chicken; in fact, he says not to soak the chicken.

One of his “secret” techniques is to pierce the largest part of each piece with a heavy two-pronged fork after they have cooked for about 8 minutes. It lets some of the oil seep in to speed up cooking without making it extra greasy.

For the flour, I substituted the America’s Test Kitchen’s gluten free flour blend and it worked amazingly well. Bob said he couldn’t tell the difference between it and regular wheat flour.

So what was our verdict? Both recipes produce fabulous fried chicken, but I think I may have liked Austin’s recipe a little bit better. It had been so long since Bob had eaten at Chez Heléne that he couldn’t really compare it to the restaurant’s. He just declared it to be delicious and requested that I make it again next week tomorrow. (I said no.)

I liked the fact that you don’t have to plan ahead to soak the Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken. The actual cooking seemed a little more labor intensive with Austin’s recipe, but part of the reason for that was because the chicken breasts I had were too large. Even after cutting them in half I had to do the chicken in 2 batches. It’s hard to find a small chicken, but it works much better if you can find one. The whole chickens at my store were 4 – 5 pounds, so I opted for 3.16 pounds of cut-up chicken. Even then, the breasts were too large.

If you feel like indulging in some soulful Southern food, I highly recommend this Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken. If you don’t have a problem with wheat (or gluten) just substitute all-purpose flour and you’ll have fabulous Southern Fried Chicken!

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Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken closer

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Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken

(Adapted from Austin Leslie’s recipe in his Creole-Soul cookbook using the gluten free flour blend from The How Can This Be Gluten Free Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen)

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The recipe suggests garnishing the finished chicken with chopped dill pickles, chopped garlic, and chopped parsley before serving. Bob doesn’t remember that from Chez Heléne so I didn’t use it. Perhaps Austin used it later in his career.

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(print the recipe)

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Serves 4

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Ingredients clockwise from lower left: flour, egg, peanut oil, half & half, salt, pepper (in grinder), and chicken

Ingredients for fried chicken

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1½ cups peanut oil for frying

1 (2½ – 3) pound fryer, cut up, or pieces

Salt and Pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup half & half (or light cream)

1 cup water

3/4 cup gluten free flour blend (or all-purpose flour, if you don’t need gluten free)

Chopped dill pickles for garnish (optional)

1 Tbsp. chopped garlic (optional)

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)

 

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet to 350˚. (This takes a good 10 – 15  minutes.) Use a thermometer for frying for best results; I find it’s essential.

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Oil reflecting the wall behind the stove. The thermometer is extremely helpful.

peanut oil in cast iron skillet and thermometer

 

2. If you have too much chicken for 1 batch, preheat the oven to 170˚ (warm), and put a large baking sheet in it. Put racks in the baking sheet if you have some.

racks in a baking sheet

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3. Cut the chicken breasts in half so they will cook more quickly and evenly. Rinse them well to remove any little bits of bone there may be from cutting them in half and dry them off with paper towels.

4. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

5. Combine the egg, half & half, water, 1 teaspoon salt, and a bit of pepper in a bowl.

6. Put the flour in another bowl or pie plate.

7. When the oil is 350˚ dip the chicken in the egg batter first and then in the flour. Add them skin-side down to the pan. Do not crowd the pan! (I did the breast pieces first because they were so large and did the rest of the pieces in a second batch.)

8. Cook the pieces for about 5 – 6 minutes; pierce the thickest part of each piece with a large, two-pronged fork and turn them over for an additional 5 – 6 minutes. Monitor the temperature of the oil and adjust the heat as needed. (Large pieces may take a bit longer. My large breast pieces took a total of about 18 – 20 minutes.)

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I found it best to cover the pan, especially with the larger pieces. I used another baking sheet for a makeshift lid.

makeshift lid

9. As the pieces get done, use tongs to remove them from the pan and put them on the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.

10. If it’s necessary to do 2 batches, repeat with the second batch after the first is done.

11. Garnish the finished chicken with the pickles, garlic, and parsley if you’re using them and enjoy!

Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken 2

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob Dedon permalink
    July 23, 2014 4:37 pm

    A couple of corrections: One – I did not ask for it again next week. I asked for it again tomorrow. Two – Nothing wrong with big breasts.
    _____

    • July 23, 2014 4:39 pm

      That’s right. You did ask for it tomorrow. Corrected in the blog post. Still…no. 😉

  2. July 25, 2014 2:11 pm

    that chicken looks seriously delicious.. i am so craving some right now!

  3. July 27, 2014 5:48 am

    Is there anyone who doesn’t love fried chicken? If there is, I haven’t met them yet. With its use of egg, this actually reminds me quite a bit of the Tuscan way of frying chicken.

    • August 5, 2014 8:30 am

      I had to go take a look at your Tuscan fried chicken, Frank. (http://goo.gl/5ySf8w) You are right, they are quite similar. Your version looks like it’s a bit simpler to make. I may have to give it a try sometime. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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