Ethiopian by birth and Swedish by adoption, Chef Marcus Samuelsson has carved out a place for himself on the international food scene with more than a dozen restaurants that criss-cross the map. From Scandinavia and Bermuda to New York and Chicago, Samuelsson’s menus are inspired by the culinary practices and ingredients from all the places he’s lived. His latest book, “The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem,” is named for the restaurant he opened six years ago and the community he is trying to build around it.
Samuelsson explains that for the first time since moving to New York City in 1991, Harlem provided “a sense of place and a community and an understanding [of] oneself.” Because “when you see Harlem, you see America.” Both his restaurant and cookbook reflect the rich history and culture of the neighborhood. “It’s not an African-American tale. It’s an American tale. Beautiful, ugly, delicious, spicy confusing…but it’s our tale. And that takes many narratives to tell the story.”
Fried Yardbird Royale
If you prefer, you can also fry the whole yardbird. All you need is a 3½-pound chicken and a turkey fryer. Simply double the ingredients for the brine and marinade. To fry the bird, heat 2 gallons of peanut oil to 360ºF in your outdoor turkey fryer. After about 15 to 20 minutes, check the thickest part of the thigh using an instant-read thermometer. It should read 165ºF. Remove the yardbird from the oil and rest it on a rack set over a baking sheet for 10 minutes before serving. Samuelsson says, “Put it out whole and be proud.”
Yield: Makes 4 servings
8 cups water
1 cup coarse kosher salt
4 chicken thighs
4 chicken drumsticks
2 cups buttermilk
¾ cup coconut milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Chicken Shake, plus additional for serving (recipe follows)
Peanut oil for frying
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup semolina flour
2 tbsps cornstarch
1 tbsp freshly ground white pepper
A large container, for brining
An instant-read thermometer
Brine the chicken: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water and the salt to a simmer over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. Pour the hot brine into a large container and add the remaining 6 cups of water. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature and add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 1½ hours, then drain.
Marinate the chicken: In a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, whisk the buttermilk, coconut milk, minced garlic and Chicken Shake together. Submerge the brined chicken in the marinade, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Fill a large saucepan a third of the way full with peanut oil and set over medium-high heat. Heat the oil to 360ºF.
Batter the chicken: Meanwhile, coat the chicken as the oil heats. Whisk the flour, semolina, cornstarch and white pepper together in a large bowl. Be sure to allow any excess liquid to drip off the chicken when removing the meat from the marinade. Then roll the chicken in the flour coating mixture, making sure to pack it on. Transfer the flour-coated chicken to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. (If the coating looks damp, try rolling the chicken in the flour again.)
Fry the chicken: Working in batches, fry the chicken until it turns a rich golden brown, about 10 minutes per batch. Take care not to overcrowd the pan. Keep an eye on the oil and adjust the heat if necessary to keep the temperature between 350ºF and 375ºF. Once the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165ºF, remove the chicken from the oil and drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
To finish, season the chicken with a sprinkle of Chicken Shake.
Yield: Makes about 1 cup
¼ cup berbere (Ethiopian spice mix)
¼ cup smoked paprika (hot)
2 tbsps ground cumin
2 tbsps celery salt
2 tbsps freshly ground white pepper
1½ tsps granulated garlic
1½ coarse kosher salt
A glass jar with lid
Combine the berbere, smoked paprika, ground cumin, celery salt, granulated garlic and kosher salt together in a jar. Seal tightly with a lid and store the jar in a dark place. The Chicken Shake should keep for about 6 months.