Salty, sweet, and savory: The secrets behind Porch's signature fried chicken
Warning: In the event you skipped lunch, or settled for a meal that can only be described as mediocre, be advised this article contains contains graphic, mouth-watering details. In case of an emergency, we ask that you stop what you are doing immediately and head directly to Porch restaurant, 20 Fourth Street Southeast, downtown Rochester.
Made from scratch
As the adage goes, nothing worth having comes easy. And for Executive Chef Justin Schoville and the staff at Porch, that could not be more true of everything that comes out of the kitchen.
Take their signature fried chicken, for instance. On the surface, there is a simplicity to this crispy goodness. But make no mistake, what you are about to sink your teeth into has undergone a rigorous process, with every step and ingredient carefully calculated.
“It is an indulgence,” says Justin, “but for us it is a labor of love.”
To get the right flavor and texture, Justin and his team actually begin their preparation a full day before the chicken arrives on your table.
First, they submerge the chicken in a brine made up of salt, sugar, lemon, orange, and chili flakes for 24 hours. Now packed with citrus flavors, they strain the chicken and begin preparing the boneless thighs and breasts along with drumsticks for the broasting process.
Like the brine, the kitchen staff makes their own dredge in-house. Ingredients include cayenne, paprika, sugar, salt, coarse ground black pepper, and garlic powder. Among the secrets to the recipe, Justin shares, is using a dredge made up of 20 percent finely-milled rice flour.
“The reason we do that is to have more of a crunch to it,” he says.
The recipe Justin uses for the fried chicken is an adaptation of one that has been passed down on index cards from his grandmother, who originated from of all places, Kentucky.
Justin has made some tweaks to the recipe, like using a broaster for a cleaner fry, though his intent has always been to stay true to country-style flavor.
And like with the biscuits, which are also made from scratch using local buttermilk form Kappers Big Red Barn in Chatfield, Justin says customers can taste the difference between their chicken and what you can expect to get from the frozen variety found at most restaurants.
“The flavor is just that much better,” he says. “And when they eat it, you can see their reaction.”
To ensure you are getting the most out of each bite, Justin advises adding a little lemon juice and Velvet Bees Honey Butter (a product of St. Paul) to your chicken. Doing so, he says, creates just the right combination of salty, sweet, and savory.
Relax on the patio
The name Porch doesn’t come out of nowhere. Surrounding the restaurant, a former train depot, is a deck with views of the Zumbro River and downtown Rochester.
Spread across the patio are picnic tables, built by a local craftsman, that make for the ideal dining spots for sharing the family-style portions the restaurant has become known for.
Inside the restaurant, much of the historic character, including the ceiling, was restored when the building was remodeled two and a half years ago. And while there are some new elements, a lot of what you see was hand-crafted and/or purchased locally.
"As important as food and flavor is to us, we also love the idea of recycling, reusing and reclaiming things," says LeeAnn Zubay, one of the owners of Porch. "Even if we had a checkbook big enough to buy all new, I would still opt to choose the character of salvaged items.”
Owning the building also meant they could add personal touches that had meaning to them. At the end of the bar, for instance, is a beam cut from a barn that belonged to LeeAnn’s grandparents’ farm near Stewartville.
“A lot of work went into really getting the building to shine like it use it,” says Justin.
Porch is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m., and then on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch and 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for supper.
Learn more about the restaurant on their website.
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