One Flew Under the Chicken’s Coop: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

A short story followed by a recipe, both sharing a connection to each other

By Ayla Iqbal

Have you ever looked a chicken straight in the eyes? While you’re lying in the mud in the backyard of someone’s house that you shouldn’t be in. In a situation that had absolutely nothing to do with you. Well, don’t do it; the eyes are just full of judgment.

I got up, rubbed mud off my face and clothes and stalked off. Not without turning around and whispering angrily at the chicken, “Stop judging me chicken!! I’m not the one who’s getting fried and eaten by the millions!!” Stupid chicken, shaking my fist at no one in particular and rewinding the last hour of my life in my head like a movie to remind myself not to be forced to do something by my cousin Ali ever again. And I mean it this time.

*rewind noises and images flashing through my mind*

Ali comes up to me, and says, “Wasupppp,” leaning against the wall trying to look effortlessly cool, but I know that voice and I know he needs something.

Keeping the book open in my lap to signal to him that I fully intend to go back to my book, I look up, “What do you want Ali?”

Before I could react, Ali grabs my book, and dangles it in front of me before throwing it over his shoulder.  “Wh-” before I could even start complaining, he lightly slaps me on the face and starts, “Listen Farhan, you’re young, you only have this one life and you’re wasting it sitting inside reading your books when you should be out doing things. You know, doing things with your cousin, ME.” He points to himself like I have no idea he is my cousin. “Get up, let’s go.”

Knowing I should stand up for myself, I sigh and still don’t say anything. He looks at me with a hurried expression on his face, “Come on, we don’t have all day!” He nods his head towards the door and starts walking.

I, of course, just stand up and follow him.  Like a fool.

“Where are you taking me?” I try to say with a stern expression, trying to convey that I really won’t take his bullshit again.

“Why so many questions? Just chill, we’re just taking a walk. Getting in the sights.” Both hands in his pockets, he’s trying to casually stroll at a hurried pace. His poor attempt at hiding his agitation is starting to worry me.

“I asked one question and there are no sights.”  We’re walking down the street we’ve both lived on for our entire lives, and it’s literally just an ordinary street with houses lined on each side.

“Always so cynical.” Ali responds.

I choose not to respond, so we just walk in silence for the next 10 minutes.

And then we are there.  In front of the house that unknowing to me at that moment has a chicken coop in the back garden.

“Alright,” Clasping one hand on my shoulder, “here we are.  I just need you to shimmy through that front window, find a yellow envelope addressed to Mr Burrows and bring it to me.  You’ll know which one it is. The stamp has John Lennon on it, special series I picked up.”

“Excuse me? Mr Burrows, like your history teacher Mr Burrows? Screw that, I’m not going in there. Are you crazy? What did you do?!” Getting slightly hysterical, I try to pull away to run, but he smartly kept his hand planted on me the entire time.

“It’s not a big deal, I just sent him a letter with the top 10 reasons on why he should be fired. All valid reasons, however, since I sent that letter, I’ve been told that if I pull ‘anymore shenanigans’ I’ll potentially be suspended. No one is home, I’ll keep a watch, you just run in and get it. Easy.”

“Why don’t you run in and get it!”

“You’re smaller, so you can fit through that window and I’ll be able to distract someone far better than you if they come.”

“How are you even so sure that the letter is in the house?”

“I’ve been checking his mailbox to try and intercept it. Long story short, I was too late today and I saw him take the letter inside the house, and then he left shortly after. I know he hasn’t opened it as yet, because I walked up to him to explain but he wasn’t angry at me, just late and said he couldn’t speak to me then. Now, go inside and get it before he comes back. Please.” He looked at me, pleading with his eyes.

“Ugh, fine, but you owe me!” I couldn’t believe I was actually walking towards the house.  Trespassing AND entering. All I ever wanted was a quiet existence.

I squeeze myself through the window and quietly walk around trying to find his mail. Not by the front door, or on the coffee table. I head to the kitchen, and there it is. Part of me wants to just leave it there, teach Ali a lesson, but I can’t do that. I grab it and start towards the front door, but I hear two voices on the porch.  I panic realising it’s Ali talking to Mr Burrows. I stand frozen, unsure of which direction to go. I hear the lock in the door, turning slowly, and Ali is talking louder, I hear him say, “Wait, Mr Burrows!” The door slightly opens, but stops.

Suddenly my legs can move again and I bolt into the kitchen, throw open his back door and run.

The problem is, I’m clumsy, and this is how I found myself in the mud. Tripped over a branch and splat. I find Ali down the road, he takes one look at me and chuckles “Dude, that was close. What happened to you?”

I hit him straight in the gut and walk away. That felt good.


Buttermilk Fried Chicken


Here’s the thing, I don’t really like fried chicken, or chicken tenders (though weirdly I love chicken nuggets), but I really love this recipe. The chicken comes out so moist, and the crispy skin is not thick. It’s light and crispy and very flavourful. The first time I made this, it was in between a buttermilk biscuit (we had an excess of buttermilk at home that couldn’t be wasted), with an Asian slaw and feta cheese. It was so good. We ate in silence and then talked about making it again as soon as we finished. This recipe could be eaten on its own with some sides or on a burger.



300 grams of boneless chicken thighs (about 8 pieces)

1 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or enough to cover the chicken)*

2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

2 cups of breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil

1. Combine the buttermilk, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon garlic powder together in a bowl, and then submerge the chicken pieces under and leave covered in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

Make sure all the chicken pieces are submerged under the marinade

2. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 180 celsius and then combine the breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon mixed herbs in a bowl.

Have your station all set up to coat the chicken in breadcrumbs

3. Fill oil in a medium sauced frying pan by an inch and heat until it reaches 175 celsius.

4. While that heats up, take a piece of the chicken, dredge it in the breadcrumbs, then submerge in the buttermilk and then dredge a second time in the breadcrumbs ensuring the chicken is all covered and then place aside. Repeat this with the rest of the chicken pieces.

5. By now, the oil should have heated up, check with an instant kitchen thermometer to make sure it isn’t too hot, otherwise put the heat down. If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t stress, there are ways to check it is hot enough! An easy way is to grab a wooden spoon and put the handle in the oil. If the oil bubbles around it, you’re ready to go 🙂

6. Don’t overcrowd the pan, so do two chicken pieces at a time, or max three. A few minutes on each side, and then turn it over (best to use tongs for this). You’ll see a great golden colour. Once down, put on a plate that has a paper towel on it, to soak up any excess oil.

Time to fry!

7. When they’re all done, place in a tray and in the oven for about 5-7 minutes to ensure that it is fully cooked through. This is where a handy instant thermometer (for the kitchen, not your body) comes in handy. You can check the temp of the chicken internally to make sure it is fully cooked. The temperature of cooked chicken is 75 degrees Celsius. Personally, once it hits 70 degrees, I’m ready to remove it from the heat as it will continue to cook as you let it rest, and be safe to eat. If you let your chicken rest for 5-10 minutes, while taking it out before it hits 75 degrees, you’ll get juicy tasty chicken. If you cook it for longer, you run the risk of dry chicken and no one wants that.

*If you don’t have buttermilk, it’s fine.  Just take 1 cup of milk, and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and let it sit for 5 minutes. Ta-da! There is your substitute.

This story is part of a series, which is updated weekly. You can read the previous entry here

For the full story, you can visit the author’s personal website here

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