FRIED CHICKEN, POTATO CHIPS & CAVA
It has become increasingly popular to pair Champagne with fried chicken, one of those guilty pleasures (the calories in the chicken and the price of the Champaign satisfying the “guilty” half). And as classic a pairing as it is, why pay a premium for Champaign when there is stunningly delicious Cava for a fraction of the price and that makes for just as enjoyable a pairing (with only half of the guilt)?
This one follows the salt/acid rule, where the high acid in the wine balances out the fat and salt from the fried chicken on your palate. Replace fried chicken with potato chips and you have an equally delicious and equally compatible relationship between what you are drinking and eating. Both potato chips and fried chicken share the same evil but delicious fat and salt that is nature’s culinary temptress, and a little bubbly is the holy water that provides absolution.
Cava is to Spain what Champaign is to France. It is Spain’s version of a wine with bubbles, and usually at a fraction of the price of Champaign. It comes in all of the same styles of Champaign, so if you like Brut or Extra Brut or Rose or vintage, you can get the same with Cava. On a spectrum with Prosecco and Champaign, Cava isn’t as sweet as Prosecco can be, or as nutty as Champaign can be. Cava will give you rich floral, pear, and melon notes, with zesty citrus and the requisite high acidity that balances the fat and salt of the potato chips or fried chicken.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
4 pounds of your favorite parts of the chicken, bone-in and skin-on
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch or potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
- Mix thoroughly in a bowl the paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and cayenne.
- Whisk the buttermilk, egg, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture in a large bowl.
- Add your chicken pieces and thoroughly coat.
- Transfer the entirety of the bowl's contents (chicken and mixture) to zipper-lock freezer bags and refrigerate overnight. Flip the bag(s) occasionally to evenly coat the chicken.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator and bring up to room temperature, about 1 hour.
- Whisk your flour, cornstarch, baking powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and the remaining spice mixture in a large bowl.
- Add 3 tablespoons of the mixture from your zipper-lock bags and work it into the flour with your fingers.
- One at a time, allow excess buttermilk to drip off of chicken piece before tossing it into the flour mixture and coating evenly. Press with your fingers to get a thick layer of mixture on your chicken.
- Shake off the excess flour from the fully coated chicken and transfer to a wire rack set on a baking sheet.
- Continue process until all chicken pieces are coated and on wire rack.
- In a pan deep enough to hold the chicken (a wok is good option) heat your oil to 425°F (don't allow the oil to get any hotter)
- Place chicken skin side down in the pan. The temperature will drop to about 300°F; maintain this temperature for the duration of the cooking.
- Fry the chicken until it is a deep golden brown, about 8 minutes if chicken is fully submerged. If not fully submerged, cook on one side about 6 minutes before turning over for about 3-4 minutes.
- Transfer fried chicken to a wire rack set in a baking sheet or a paper towel-lined plate. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
- For any leftovers, reheat your oil back to 400°F and cook chicken for about 5 minutes, flipping over halfway through. Again, transfer fried chicken to a wire rack set in a baking sheet or a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and again serve immediately.
For potato chips...
- Using a vegetable peeler or metal cheese slicer, cut your russet potatoes into very thin slices. Place in a large bowl and add ice water and salt, and soak for 30 minutes.
- Drain potatoes and place on paper towels. Pat dry.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 parts garlic powder with one part celery salt and one part black pepper; set aside.
- Skim your oil of any pieces left behind from frying the chicken, and bring up to 375°F.
- Fry the potatoes in batches, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- Immediately sprinkle with your seasoning mixture and enjoy.
Cava is so versatile that we like to splurge with it often and pair it with whatever we can. When you can find very good Cava for around $20, and where very good Champaign will cost you at least $50, why not “splurge” often? Sushi, fried fish, prosciutto and serrano ham, pan-fried mushrooms, roasted pork…Cava is a wine that will elevate even the simplest dishes to feeling a little like royalty.
Primary Grapes: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo.
Secondary Grapes: Chardonnay (primarily white), Garnacha (rose).
Body: Light - Medium
Flavors: Depending on how is is produced, could have zesty citrus or baked apple and deep nuttiness. Dominant flavors typically include lemon/lime, quince, almond, and tart apple. Secondary flavors can include brioche, fig, and a chalky minerality.
This is a good Cava at the $25 price point. We usually find this Borrasca Brut Cava at our local Total Wine shop, and is great on its own but will compliment the fried chicken you just made nicely. Serve it cold, 45 degrees, right out of the fridge.
Expressing to you so much more than simply "enjoy your meal".