A “locavore” is a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. Along those lines, every month, local chefs welcome Orlando’s locavore, Misty Heath, into their kitchens to break down how to make some of their signature dishes for our readers to make at home.
This column is also featured in our monthly print product, available in restaurants and storefronts across the City Beautiful.
Long before the craze of spicy chicken sandwiches swept our feeds, Orlando’s fried chicken sandwich game was already on point. Many local establishments have dedicated countless hours and resources to develop tasty, unique, and downright delicious chicken sandwiches.
Rhys and Lexie Gawlak of Swine and Sons (Facebook | Website) in Winter Park have one of the most talked-about sandwiches in town. Having recently moved into a new spot inside The Local Butcher and Market at 669 N. Orange Avenue [GMap], this powerhouse couple and their team serve up tasty breakfast items all day, including sandwiches, salads, and baked goods all in a casual and comfortable setting.
The Gawlaks told me that they’ve been working on their crispy chicken recipe since 2012 and their current version is offered in two different spice levels; “Party” or “Rager!”
The basic rundown of the process, without giving away any crucial secrets from their kitchen, is as follows; The Gawlak’s insist on dark meat as it is more consistent in thickness for even cooking and is more forgiving in the fryer. They recommend an 8-12 hour brine to ensure that the bird will stay juicy.
Next, they smoke the chicken so it will fry up quickly without burning. We are omitting this process, as not too many home cooks will have the equipment to do this. They dip the chicken in buttermilk (no eggs needed) and dredge in a spiced flour mixture. Next the precious cargo is dropped into the fryer and cooked to a deep, golden brown. The final steps are to give the bird a toss in their special spice mixture and toast the bun with a slather of butter on both sides. Here are the fine details:
- 4 T Salt
- 1 Qt Lukewarm water
- 4 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- A handful of your favorite spices—thyme, peppercorn, a pinch of sugar
In a gallon-size plastic bag, add salt and spices to the water. Allow to cool and then submerge chicken liquid and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours or a maximum of 12 hours. Remove from brine, and pat chicken dry.
- 2 C Buttermilk
- 2 ½ C All-purpose flour
- ½ C Cornstarch
- 2 ½ T Kosher salt
- 1 T Garlic powder
- 1 T Onion powder
- 1 T Paprika
- 2 t Cayenne pepper
Pour the buttermilk into a bowl. In a separate deep bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix well. Dip the chicken into the buttermilk, give it a good drenching, and then coat with your flour mixture. Repeat this process with the remaining three pieces of chicken.
- Canola Oil
In a 10-inch or larger cast iron skillet, pour in the oil to at least one-inch depth in your pan and bring the oil to medium to medium-low temperature. Gently, with thongs, add your coated chicken to the pan. Fry no more than two pieces at a time until nice and deeply golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add in more oil as needed and allow to heat before continuing to fry.
Lexie used a frier, as seen in the photo, so don’t get jealous.
Swine and Sons uses a proprietary blend of spices, then adds in a bit of oil from the pan and allows the flavors to bloom by having it sit for a hot minute. They then toss the chicken generously in the oil/spice mix before serving. You can actually purchase their special spice mixture at their Winter Park storefront but the recommended alternatives are:
- Use your own spice blend (or use the spices in the flour dredge) to toss the chicken in.
- Go buffalo style and melt two tablespoons of butter with a cup of buffalo sauce (Frank’s brand is the way to go) and toss.
Toast your buns on both sides, slathered with butter. Then simply add your fried chicken and your favorite pickles (garlic and dill for us, please) and dig in.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken and bake it the rest of the way if needed. Once out of the oil, the chicken will cook a bit more from the residual heat. Rest the chicken a few minutes before deciding to bake a bit. Keep cooked chicken in the oven on warm until ready for serving.
- Avoid being chintzy on the flour mixture. Mixing too little and trying to stretch it will result in the texture of the breading being soggy and not sticking, versus light and crispy.