Sunday Supper: Southern Fare Sweet Cornbread and Buttermilk Chicken

In celebration of family and friends, we gathered ’round the table and shared in some delicious homemade southern fare. Inspired by  Thomas Keller, chef/owner of the French Laundry in Napa Valley and per se in New York City, we made his famous buttermilk fried chicken, buttered mashed potatoes, a hot plate of sweet cornbread and served it with a beautiful bright green salad.

Today’s recipe is from his “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook and is unlike any other friend chicken that I have ever experienced. Hands down it is the BEST recipe EVER. The crisp, simply seasoned batter was bursting with flavor and was fried to perfection. I ate three pieces last night and will be eating more for breakfast with biscuits and eggs. Delish! The book is a wealth of knowledge and offers incredible information, tricks and tips. I suggest that you get the book and read it from cover to cover if you really want to up your kitchen game. Consider it the best education for under $30.

The cornbread was moist and served perfectly golden yellow with local honey butter. Sometimes you just need to follow a recipe and that is exactly what we did this weekend.

The chicken was in brine for 12 hours prior to frying and this folks, is the secret to making your chicken shine. It keeps it juicy and packs it with flavor. ***I would highly advise against skipping this step.

I read an article in a food magazine sometime last fall about Thomas Keller’s famous fried chicken and wanted to try it. I recently made a life changing decision that will alter my life for the better and I couldn’t be happier. What better way to celebrate than food and wine, right? This caused for a celebration with our closest friends and family in their new home in NORCAL. The process was slow and intimate as the savory aromas filled the room. We shared stories and the latest news; laughter was contagious.  This is what Sunday Supper is meant to be. I would suggest making the brine two days ahead of time to make things easier.

We started off with a local brew from Petaluma, CA called Lagunitas IPA. Then we moved onto a white from Palmaz Vineyard “Amalia” Napa Valley Chardonnay and had a little 2009 Carneros pinot in between from Artessa. Our chicken was paired with a 2007 Chimmney Rock SLV Cabernet and 2007 Rubicon Estates Cabernet.

What You Will Need
Ad Hoc’s Chicken Brine:
This is enough for ten pounds of chicken. I assume that many of you will not be using 10 lbs. of chicken so modify accordingly.

5 lemons, halved

24 bay leaves

1 bunch (4 oz.) flat-leaf parsley

1 bunch (1 oz.) thyme

1/2 cup clover honey

1 head of garlic, halved through the equator

1/4 cup black peppercorns

2 c. (10 oz.) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (if using another brand, use exactly 10 oz.)

2 gallons of water

Ad-Hoc’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken
2 whole chickens broken down or a bunch of skin on thighs and legs. I am a drummy girl so I went this route.

Peanut or Canola Oil for frying

1 quart buttermilk

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Coating ingredients: 

6 c. AP flour

1/4 c. garlic powdwer

1/4 c. onion powder

1 T. plus 1 t. paprika

1 T. plus 1 t. cayenne

1 T. plus 1 t. kosher salt

1 t. freshly ground pepper


Paula Dean’s Corn Bread

1 c. self rising corn meal

1/2 c. self rising flour

3/4 c. buttermilk

2 eggs

2 T. Oil

What To Do:

For the Brine: Combine all ingredients in a large pot on the stove. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Chill before using. Your brine can be refrigerated up to three days before.

To Brine the Chicken: In a large container, pour the brine, add the chicken and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. If you go longer than 12, your chicken will become too salty so don’t forget to remove it promptly.

Bake The Cornbread: I like the cornbread to be served warm so time accordingly if that is your preference as well; it only takes 20-25 minutes to bake. Combine all ingredients above into a bowl. Pour into a shallow greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees.

To Fry the Chicken: Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse under cold water ensuring that you remove any and all spices stuck to the skin. Discard of the brine. Prepare a large plate or tray lined with paper towel and place pieces on tray and pat dry. Allow to air dry and rest at room temp for 1.5 hours or until it comes to room temp.

Fill your frying pot with 2-3 inches of peanut oil and bring to 320 degrees. DO NOT fill your pan higher than 1/3 of the way full. Prepare two pans: one lined with parchment and one with a cooling rack. Combine all of the  coating ingredients listed above in a bowl. In a similar size bowl, pour in the buttermilk and set near the pan lined with the parchment paper.

Your chicken should be room temp before beginning this process. Coat chicken in flour/spice mixture. Dip into the buttermilk and then re-coat with the flour mixture. Place breaded chicken pieces on the parchment paper until ready to fry. When oil is ready, slowly add the breaded pieces to the oil and cook for approximately 12 minutes. Place chicken pieces on the cooling rack skin side up.

***The importance of skin side up: This allows for the oil to drain out and not become trapped in the skin. This will keep your chicken extra crispy!

Garnish the fried chicken with fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs and place on a large platter to serve family style.  We served this with a beautiful salad and delicious mashed potatoes. We drank wine and shared conversation under the Northern California stars. This is what life is about.


xoxo Cyn





  1. Thanks for the post, everything looks delish! I am salivating over the pictures:)

  2. I love ad hoc fried chicken! What I cannot figure out is how to make their yummy honey buttermilk cornbread! Do you have ad hoc’s recipe for that? I ate it at ad hoc addendum and now I am hooked! It was quite possibly the best cornbread ever!
    I love your photos of your meal, it looks perfect!

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