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
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.