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Hugh Acheson’s Crispy Chicken Thighs with Peas, Carrots and Hot-Sauce Butter

         Hugh Acheson is an Atlanta Chef who owns 5 restaurants there.  His first cookbook “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Re-Invented for Your Kitchen” (Clarkson Potter 2011) was awarded “Best Cookbook in American Cooking” by the James Beard Foundation in 2012.  Not bad for a kid born in Ottawa, Canada.   You may remember Hugh from his stints on Top Chef as a contestant and later a judge. He started working in kitchens at age 15 and he’s been drawn to them ever since.   He ended up in Atlanta because his wife, Mary Koons, went back to her native Athens Georgia for Grad School.  He’s clearly taken to the south and today’s recipe is a great example of his new style of southern cooking.  First, the dish looks just beautiful.  The peas and carrots pop from the plate and the big, juicy, crisp chicken gets its crunch from Crisco, which is about as Southern as you can get. It relies on the time honored use of Buttermilk to tenderize the meaty Chicken thighs.  Why Buttermilk?


     First of all, Buttermilk is not a butter-y high fat milk.  Actually nothing could be further from the truth. Buttermilk originally was the liquid left behind when butter was being churned.  That is traditional buttermilk but it doesn’t begin to cover the range of fermented milk drinks all called buttermilk.   In warm climates from the Balkans to the Indian sub-continent,  where unrefrigerated fresh milk sours quickly as well as in colder climates ranging from Scandinavia to the Czech Republic, buttermilk is  made from fermented cow’s milk and is called “cultured buttermilk”.  It’s made using two species of lactic acid bacteria which gives buttermilk its tartness.  Cultured Buttermilk, which is what you’ll find in the supermarket, has several qualities that make it ideal for making chicken juicier and more tender and it helps the coating—in this case, flour—adhere to the chicken.   The acid content in Buttermilk is responsible for tenderizing the meat.   The marinating chicken does require a little time in the fridge.  Chef Acheson recommends two hours but you could do this the night before.  Or you could cut the marinating time down to an hour, which is the minimum time recommended elsewhere if not by Chef Acheson. One other change I made from the original: The peas were blanched, the carrots were raw.  Sorry but I like a little more tenderness so I cooked these a little longer than the Chef recommended. Here is the recipe:

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