Thursday, January 20, 2011

One down, me to go

I pick up my son after school.

Him:  What's for dinner?
Me:  Fried chicken.
Him:  (Grabbing my arm and practically yanking our car off the road in his excitement) The kind you make?  The one like you made before that time?  That one?
Me:  Yep.
Him:   Happiest day of my life.   Right here.  Happiest day!

He sits back in the front seat, changes the radio station to something truly annoying* and starts texting and facebooking and whatever else on his phone.   We're not talking anymore, but we're both grinning like idiots.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Strips
A mash up of recipes from The Pioneer Woman and The Clinton Street Bakery Cookbook.  The cookbook is a recent acquisition and it's gone right into the rotation of cherished favorites.

About 2 lbs of boneless chicken breast tenders**

2 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder or onion powder

2 c. flour
1 Tbs. seasoned salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. buttermilk

2 -3 pieces of bacon (optional)
Plenty of canola oil

Rinse chicken tenders and pat dry.  If there's any visible fat or any those little white veins on them, trim those off.

Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk.   Place the chicken tenders in a shallow dish, and pour the marinade over them.    At this point, you can let them soak in the fridge for many hours, or as little as 30 minutes.  Depends what time of day you found this recipe.

Combine all the coating ingredients except buttermilk in a dish that is shallow enough to let you put a few pieces of chicken in there and roll them around, but has sides high enough so when you do that stuff doesn't spill all over the floor.    Slowly toss in the buttermilk with a fork.  This may seem strange, but it will create these little clumps of coating that will make the chicken extra crispy and good.  Trust me.

Take the chicken out of the fridge.  Get out a large cooling rack, and set it over a baking sheet or paper towels for easy clean up.     Arrange these three things in a line:  chicken container, then coating container, then rack.

Working a few pieces at a time, place chicken into coating mixture and turn gently until completely covered.  Place on the rack.   Continue until all the chicken is ready to go.

In a large, deep frying pan, add canola oil to a depth of about 1 inch.  Heat over medium high heat.    Here comes that optional bacon part.  I'd read that real Southern fried chicken is sometimes cooked in bacon fat,  so my nod to that tradition is to fry a couple of pieces of bacon in my relatively healthy canola oil to give it that bacon-y flavor.   If you're with me, add the bacon to your hot oil, and let it fry until crisp.    What happens to it after that is none of my business.

Fry the chicken strips in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan.  Turn once.  You should need roughly 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your pieces.   Place finished pieces on a baking sheet covered with paper bags or paper towels to drain any remaining oil.

Serve hot with your favorite sauces***.   Might not be the happiest day of your life, but it will come close.

Click to print this recipe!

* This is a great parady of my current nominee for most irritating song in the world:

** If you have a growing teenage boy, use closer to 3 lbs.  You can also use boneless chicken thighs for part of this, but trim them really well of fat and cook about a minute longer on each side.

*** My favorite sauces for these:
Homemade or purchased BBQ sauce
Equal parts Dijon mustard and apricot preserves, mixed
The kids favorite:  Ketchup

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