GLUTEN-FREE SOUTHERN BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN

The taste of authentic fried chicken is no longer out of reach for those who want to avoid gluten. Hands down, this is the best gluten-free chicken I have ever tasted, just like the real flour-covered thing! The tapioca starch keeps the coating from being sticky or gummy (as sometimes happens with gluten-free batters). Allowing the chicken to rest before entering the oil ensures the crust adheres and stays crunchy through each bite.

1 chicken (about 3 pounds, 12 ounces), cut into 4 pieces

2 cups buttermilk

3½ cups rice flour

2½ teaspoons salt

1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups milk

1 egg

⅔ cup tapioca starch

Vegetable oil, for frying

6 sprigs herbs, such as sage, rosemary, and thyme

Place the chicken and buttermilk in a large zip-top bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 4 hours.

In one bowl, whisk together 1½ cups of the rice flour, 1½ teaspoons of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the pepper, and the cayenne pepper, and in another bowl, the milk and egg. In a large bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch with the remaining 2 cups of rice flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper.

Drain the chicken, discarding the buttermilk. Dredge a piece in the rice flour mixture (without tapioca starch), dip into the milk mixture, then dredge in the tapioca starch mixture. Transfer the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining

pieces. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of the remaining tapioca starch mixture over the pieces to ensure that they are thoroughly coated and let them rest for 5 minutes. It will look like there is too much flour mounded on top of the meat. Shake slightly before adding to the oil.

In a large heavy skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over medium heat to 320°F. Set a wire rack over a clean rimmed baking sheet. Place herb sprigs in the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes. The herbs will spatter in the oil, so stand back. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Working with half of the chicken at a time, carefully place the pieces in the hot oil. Fry, turning often, for 13 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through and juices run clear. Maintain a frying temperature of

315°F to 325°F. Drain the chicken on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Top the chicken with the crispy herb sprigs before serving.