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How Bakersfield Became Famous for Fried Chicken

It's California Wine Month — celebrate with this delicious recipe!

Bakersfield fried chicken

Bakersfield may not come to mind when you’re thinking about foodie destinations, but this Central California ag town has made quite an impression on folks for its many delicious Basque restaurants. If you want a taste of their famous fried chicken topped with a punchy parsley and garlic topping (you do), then you’d better make a reservation or get there right when the restaurants open. Home to the second-largest Basque immigrant population in the U.S., these restaurants act as both a friendly community hub and a place to enjoy and remember traditional foods from the homeland.

Family style is the name of the game at places like Wool Growers and Pyrenees Cafe located in Old Town Bakersfield in an area known as “Basque Block.” Portions are hearty and no matter where you go you can expect dinner to start with a “setup” consisting of sourdough bread, cabbage soup, spaghetti, beans, salsa and pickled tongue. From there the main course can rotate through classic Basque dishes including roast lamb, oxtail stew or fried chicken. There’s a real sense of community there where stories and laughter are served up in equal measure to the gigantic portions of delicious food. Everyone is welcome and everyone is treated like family — it’s a unique and memorable stop on a California road trip. But if you can’t get to Bakersfield just yet, our recipe for Basque-Style Fried Chicken is below.

September is California Wine Month

Did you know that September is California Wine Month? There’s no better time than now to visit wine country. Harvest season is a busy and exciting time of year for anyone and everyone involved in the winemaking process. And there’s also plenty of fun to be had for visitors. Check our calendar of events to learn more about festivals, concerts, grape stomps, harvest dinners, tours and more ways you can experience the excitement for yourself.

In the vineyards, harvest is happening and grapes are tested daily for sugar, acid and pH levels both with scientific tools and the old-fashioned taste test. Once the grapes are determined to be at their ideal ripeness, crews spring into action to harvest the grapes quickly and efficiently. 

With over 80% of California wines being produced in a certified sustainable winery, harvest season is a great time to see sustainability in action. Many grapes are harvested at night when cooler temperatures help preserve the flavor and aroma of the grapes. Night harvesting also reduces overall energy use at the winery as grapes don’t need to be cooled once inside the production facility. And importantly, cooler temps also make for better conditions for vineyard crews. During harvest, juicy, ripe grapes also become particularly attractive to pests and birds. Many vineyards employ falconers that help chase away smaller birds looking for a snack. 

With 60% of the state’s roughly 615,000 vineyard acres certified to one of California’s sustainability programs (Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, Fish Friendly Farming, LODI RULES, Napa Green and SIP Certified), sustainability is a way of life in wine country all year long. When you buy wines from the Golden State, you’re helping to support these sustainable practices while also enjoying world-class wines. We call that a win-win!

Experience Harvest in California’s Central Valley

california harvest

Just an hour or so from Bakersfield you’ll find many wine tasting opportunities in California’s Central Valley. It’s a low-key destination with some delicious wines. Though the region’s hot days and warm nights make it ideal for sweet and dessert wines, you can also find everything from Albariño to Zinfandel as well. Be sure to check out the Madera Wine Trail where you can visit small and family-owned wineries in a relaxed and friendly setting. And if you’re still hungry after noshing on that Basque-Style Fried Chicken, the Fresno restaurant scene is a food-lover’s paradise.

Basque-Style Fried Chicken

Bakersfield, California is known for its Basque-Style Fried Chicken and the unique family-style dining halls like Wool Growers and Pyrenees Cafe where it’s served. Home to the second-largest Basque immigrant population in the U.S., “Basque Block” in Old Town Bakersfield is the hub of cultural life and delicious cuisine. Fried chicken is always delicious, but Basque-Style Fried Chicken is topped with a punchy garlic and parsley butter sauce that makes it truly one a kind. Cut the richness and pair with a glass of California sparkling wine or California Chardonnay.

Basque-Style Fried Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (490g) full-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon (8g) granulated chicken base
  • 10 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) garlic powder, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (14g) black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (12g) kosher salt, divided
  • 2 whole chickens, cleaned, quartered and patted dry
  • 5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
  • Canola, grapeseed or peanut oil, for frying

Garlic & Parsley Topping

  • 1 cup (227g) salted sweet cream butter
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, chicken base, grated garlic, garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or up to 12 hours/overnight.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the remaining garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Toss the marinated chicken in the seasoned flour, ensuring each piece is completely coated. Shake off any excess flour and place the chicken pieces on a baking rack until ready to fry. The longer the floured chicken sits, the better the coating will stick when you’re frying.
  • Fill a Dutch oven with enough oil to completely submerge the chicken and line a baking rack with paper towels. Heat the oil over medium until a deep-fry thermometer registers 300°F (148.8°C), then fry the chicken in batches, turning occasionally for even color and to prevent burning.
  • Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil’s temperature stable. Each piece is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F (73.8°C) when inserted into the thickest part of the chicken; this should take 15-20 minutes. Cool on the prepared baking rack.
  • GARLIC & PARSLEY TOPPING
  • In a small skillet, melt the sweet cream butter over medium heat until just starting to brown.
  • Sauté the minced garlic and parsley until the garlic is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Decrease the heat if needed to keep the garlic from darkening and getting bitter.
  • Spoon the topping over the fried chicken to serve.
Bakersfield fried chicken

Friends of Fried Foods

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, California sparkling wine is excellent with fried foods. Fresh and vibrant California sparklers with their bright acidity help cut through and balance the richness of this fried chicken. Alternatively, choose a crisp, clean Chardonnay that has been fermented in stainless (rather than oak). Chardonnay is the most widely planted white winegrape in California for good reason — it’s versatile, food-friendly and complex.

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