Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall Comfort Food from Cleo Coyle: Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Apple Snack Cake

Fall means comfort foods! As my readers know, I enjoy making healthier dishes, but I also relish those foods that feed the souland so does my coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi. In Decaffeinated Corpse, Clare warms up a chilly October morning with a fresh batch of Cappuccino Muffins, decadent little sour cream cakes made with cocoa, chocolate chips, and crowned, like her Village Blend cappuccinos, with sweet, frothy tops. Before the mystery's climax at the famous Greenwich Village Halloween parade, Clare stirs up a recipe for Carne Con Café, a hearty beef stew based on a traditional Mayan dish and laced with the earthy flavor of coffee. (The credit for that one goes to Clare's business partner, the globe-trotting coffee buyer Matteo Allegro.) Because both of those recipes are available in the recipe section of Decaffeinated Corpse, I’m sharing one today that’s more economical but just as comforting. It's my version of the classic...

Cleo Coyle, who has no fear
of frying, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Fried Chicken

Tender and sweet from its buttermilk bath, crispy and crunchy from its dip in hot oil, it's the perfect fall comfort food...

Fried chicken seems a simple enough dish. What’s the big deal, right? You flour chicken pieces and fry them. But if you’ve ever tried to make it, then you know plenty can go wrong (at least it has for me).

This recipe never fails me. My first secret is using chicken wings exclusively. Cutting up the chicken wings and discarding the tips* will yield 24 pieces of fried chicken out of just 12 wings—an economical and tasty meat course for 4 people that’s filling and satisfying. Unlike bigger pieces of chicken—which often end up burning on the outside before cooking properly all the way through—chicken wings fry perfectly in about 8 to 10 minutes. These smaller pieces require less oil, too.

The buttermilk bath is the second key to a successful batch of fried chicken. The acid in the buttermilk is an excellent marinade for the meat, softening and sweetening the chicken before it even touches the oil.

*RECIPE NOTE: The chicken wing tips in this recipe don’t have to be discarded. I boil them in water with celery, carrots, onions and spices and make a delicious chicken stock. Waste not! 

My advice: Buy a quart of buttermilk, reserve 1/2 cup for my Buttermilk Apple Snack Cake recipe and use the rest to make my fried chicken...

 Download a PDF of my Buttermilk Apple Snack Cake recipe by clicking here.

Cleo Coyle’s 
Buttermilk Fried Chicken

To download an illustrated PDF of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Serves: This recipe calls for 3 pounds of wings, which is about 12 wings or 24 pieces after wings are cut up.


3 pounds fresh chicken wings

1 quart regular or light buttermilk

      (Reserve 1/2 cup for my Buttermilk-Apple Snack Cake recipe!)

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons McCormick “Original Chicken Seasoning” blend
(Or your favorite chicken spice blend)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly-ground pepper, ground very fine
2 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Optional)
Canola oil for frying

Step 1: Cut the wings into three pieces, discarding all wing tips (or you can boil the tips with carrots, celery, onion and spices to make chicken broth). Place cut up chicken in a plastic or glass container. Pour buttermilk over the chicken wing pieces and marinate in refrigerator for up to 3 hours (no more).

Step 2: Mix the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, chicken spice, and cayenne pepper thoroughly in a paper or plastic bag.

Step 3: Remove chicken pieces from buttermilk and discard excess liquid. Shake off loose buttermilk (do not rinse). Drop wing pieces into the bag 2 or 3 pieces at a time. Shake well until each piece is evenly coated.

Step 4: Heat canola oil in a pan or pot deep enough to allow wing pieces to be submerged in oil (at least 2 inches deep). Shake excess flour off your chicken wing pieces and slowly place, one piece at a time, into hot oil. (Note: You know the oil is hot enough for frying when a dough ball made from a bit of buttermilk and flour sizzles when dropped into the pot). Make sure your pan is not too crowded; otherwise, oil’s temperature will drop too fast, and you’ll end up with greasy chicken.

Step 5: Fry each batch for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally until chicken is golden brown & cooked evenly. (Watch oil temperature: This takes patience and practice. Keeping the oil hot enough is the key to good frying. Adding wings will reduce the oil’s temp., but turning heat too high will burn them.) I place my finished fried chicken pieces on a metal rack over an old cookie sheet pan to catch excess grease. Put rack in a 220° F. oven to dry chicken out and keep warm until all pieces are fried, and. . . 

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 

To get more of my recipes, sign up to win
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series that I write with my
husband, visit my online coffeehouse at...

"A Favorite Book of the Year"
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For a peek at some of the firehouse-inspired recipes featured in Roast Mortem, click here.

Now a national bestseller
in paperback

To purchase the book, 
click here or here or here.


"...a tasty tale of crime and punishment,
lightened by the Blend's frothy cast of
lovable eccentrics." ~ Publishers Weekly

For a peek at some of the chocolate 
recipes featured in Murder by Mocha,
click here

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  1. OMG, be still my heart. I adore cooking with apples, and my husband's favorite food is fried chicken. I think buttermilk is the cure all for many recipes, so this is like a home run post for me. Thanks so much!

    Hope Clark

  2. Possible prize for the next contest you host, Ms. Cleo, would be to cook or go on a food trip with you. That would be really cool! Great post (as always)! ;)

  3. I *love* buttermilk*! This recipe sounds fantastic, Cleo...fall comfort food indeed! Can't wait to put this on my meal rotation!

  4. Two great recipes! Thanks, Cleo. I love buttermilk too. I can't wait to comfort myself with these (and my DH too!)

  5. I love fried chicken. Adding this one.

  6. Cleo, this is just really unfair! Now I want fried chicken! It's looks fabulous!

    ~ Krista

  7. Reply to...

    @HopeClark - You are so welcome! Thank you for dropping by today. Your site is wonderful, by the way. Great info there for writers: http://fundsforwriters.com/

    ~ Cleo

  8. Reply to...

    @thetravelingreader - Aw, thanks, that is amazingly sweet of you. And, the truth is, I've often remarked to my husband that it would be a great deal of fun to host a New York foodie or cafe tour. Marc and I sometimes joke with each other about where we would (theoretically) take our readers to eat, drink, and be merry. Maybe someday we can offer a live tour. In the meantime, the settings and set pieces of our fiction will have to do. (I just wish I could send foodie samples with the recipe section!)

    ~ Cleo

  9. Reply to...

    @Elizabeth/Riley - I thought of you as I prepared this post because, IMO, nobody does chicken better than Southern cooks, but I threw caution to the wind and shared it anyway. And I thank you for your kind words! :)

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Replies to...

    @MJ - Per your DH (and mine...) I would not be surprised if clinical studies show that 98.5% of male pupils dilate at the mere mention of fried food. :)

    @Dru - Glad to hear it. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

    @Krista - Aw, thanks. It's hard to beat fried chicken for feeding the soul.

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter