Washington Post - Jennifer Chase

Makes 10 pieces

Fried chicken waits for no one, so have your spice blend ready before you heat the oil. Toss this especially crispy chicken in its simple but terrific combination of Middle Eastern za'atar and sumac after it has been fried a second time.

You'll need an instant-read thermometer. In testing, we found that we could reduce the amounts of batter and the za'atar coating, and those amounts are reflected in the recipe here.

Za'atar is a spice blend that typically includes dried herbs (often hyssop or thyme), sumac, sesame seeds and salt. Ground sumac lends citrusy notes and color here; both are available at Middle Eastern markets, Penzeys and at many Whole Foods Markets.

Make ahead: 

The seasoned, dry-rubbed chicken needs to "cure" for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, and up to overnight.


For the chicken

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

4 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons powdered mustard

One 2kg chicken, cut into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 breast halves each cut in half)

8 to 12 cups canola oil, for frying

1/2 cup za'atar (see headnote)

1/2 cup ground sumac (see headnote)

For the batter

1 1/2 cups cornstarch

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups cold water


For the chicken, combine the salt, onion powder and powdered mustard in a large mixing bowl. 

Add the chicken parts and get in there with your hands to coat each piece well. 

Arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight.

For the batter: Whisk together the cornstarch, flour and salt in a mixing bowl. 

Gradually add the water, whisking to form a smooth batter with the consistency of a thin pancake batter.

When you're ready to fry, transfer the chicken to the counter top so that it comes to a cool room temperature. 

Heat enough of the oil in a large, deep pot (preferably enameled cast-iron) to a temperature of 300 degrees so that the chicken pieces will be submerged. 

Be careful not to overfill. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels.

Dip each chicken piece into the batter to fully coat. 

Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the battered legs and thighs into the oil, being careful not to splash up any hot oil. 

After 1 minute, add the wings; after 3 minutes, the breast pieces.

Use a large metal spoon to gently separate any pieces that may be sticking together or to the bottom of the pot.

After 10 minutes total, use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken pieces to drain on the paper towels. (The chicken won't be fully cooked - there's a second fry.)

Let the chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the za'atar and sumac in a mixing bowl. 

Seat a wire rack over the paper towel-lined baking sheet.

Reheat the oil to 350 degrees. Fry the chicken pieces again, this time for 4 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. 

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken pieces to the wire rack to drain for less than a minute.

Drop the hot, twice-fried chicken pieces right into the bowl with the spice blend and dust to coat evenly. Serve warm.

Adapted from "Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story" by Michael Solomonov, Steve Cook, Tom Henneman, Bob Logue and Felicia D'Ambrosio