Fried Guinea Hen
"There's no way we're doing fried chicken," is what chef J.J. Johnson told his partner Alexander Smalls when designing the menu for the Cecil. But while on a recent trip to Ghana, the pair came up with the idea of doing a fried Guinea hen instead, a bird native to Africa. The deep pink meat is paired with other Ghanaian flavors—roasted white sweet potatoes, okra, pickles, and a cinnamon-based spice mixture.
The bird starts off with a 48 hour brine in a salt water solution seasoned with cinnamon. The brine is key to ensuring that the lean breast meat doesn't dry out during its trip through the fryer.
Each order comes with a full breast and leg. After brining, Chef Johnson breaks down the bird and dries off the individual pieces.
The meat is dredged in a simple seasoned flour. No eggs, no buttermilk, "it's just straight up all-purpose flour with spices," says Chef Johnson. The fowl is dredged to order to ensure that the flour coating stays light with very little gluten development.
Into the fryer
The fowl goes into the fryer immediately after dredging where it fries for exactly 12 minutes.
Ready to plate
The ultra-thin and crisp seasoned coating delivers a true Southern-style crust to the chicken, the kind where the breading and the skin have fused into one, an effect that Ed refers to as "Cosmic Oneness."
Because of its brine and short frying time, the Guinea fowl comes out insanely juicy, practically oozing juice, even from the lean white meat sections. The cinnamon is present, but not overpowering (my wife disagreed, claiming it was a little too dominant), and the crust shatters as well as the best fried chicken I've had anywhere. It might not technically be chicken, but its nevertheless a solid contender for best fried chicken in the city.