Welcome to the lab, please watch your step...

Welcome to the lab, please watch your step.... I'm a busy young zombie just trying to balance writing, food and life. I love to cook and love to eat even more! And I promise I won't eat your brains—unless they are made from cake, then I can make no promises.
This is where I run my experiments and post the results for your enjoyment. I have a weird sense of humor, so bare with me, I promise the food will be good ;)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Very BEST Chicken Fingers You Will Ever Eat!

I'm home sick from work (for the second day in a row) and I just couldn't sleep anymore.  So I decided I had neglected you all for long enough, it's time for another recipe.  I actually have a whole ton of pictures I've taken of recipes I want to share with you, but the past several months my time has been dominated by the final semester of my Master's program.

Now, my thesis is in and classes are completed, so I can once again dedicate more time to you all!  I'm sure you're just overjoyed.

Okay, this isn't why you're here.  You're here because of the title.  I promised the very best chicken fingers you've ever had.  "How can she really make that claim?" you might ask. 

I make the claim because they are that good!  I got the original recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  I had one chicken breast thawed, no vegetables (so I couldn't make my go-to Stir Fry), and a half a container of buttermilk leftover from making cupcakes.  I needed to feed my boyfriend, who was becoming hangrier (that moment when hungry and angry meet) by the second.  I found her recipe for Chicken tenders and it was a light at the end of the tunnel. (You can find her recipe here)

Since that first encounter I find myself keeping buttermilk on hand much more often.  It's a cheap ingredient, but it makes all the difference in these strips.  I suppose you could use an egg wash, but then they wouldn't be the Best you've ever tasted.

Now, the Pioneer Woman—while I absolutely LOVE her—doesn't use too much seasoning for this recipe.  As a (semi) reformed picky eater, I can appreciate the simplicity.  But I thought these tenders could do with a little pick-me-up of flavor.  So I employed the flavor commandments I have learned from years of watching Food Network.

Firstly, that you should—and shall—season at every level of the process to develop deep flavors.

And Secondly, that there is no "wrong" combination of flavors.

So I experimented, and the following is the recipe I came up with.

Best Chicken Fingers of Your Life
1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into strips (PW gets the pre-cut strips, I find it's cheaper to do the cutting myself)
Buttermilk, enough to cover with about 1/4-1/2 cup left-over (sometimes you can find this in Pint sizes which should be enough—I've yet to find smaller than a quart though)
1 1/2 cups flour
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Garlic Powder
Poultry seasoning

1) Cut chicken breast into strips.

2) add 1/2 tsp Paprika, 1/2 tsp Garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning to buttermilk, as well as a dash of salt and a grind or two of pepper.  Mix together, the buttermilk should turn a light salmon pink.

3) Soak the Chicken strips in the buttermilk mixture.  Let marinate at least 15 minutes.

4) In a separate bowl mix 1 and 1/2 cups flour with another 1 tsp each of Paprika, Garlic powder and Poultry seasoning, as well as some salt and pepper. (Are you starting to see this seasoning every layer yet?)

5) Mix together with a fork.  While mixing the flour, drizzle in a little of the leftover buttermilk at a time (anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup in total).  There will be some clumps, which is okay, just try to keep them on the smaller side.

6) Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-low to medium heat.  Check that the heat is correct by sprinkling a little flour over the oil.  It should bubble.

7) Take soaked strips, a couple at a time, and dredge through the flour mixture. Gingerly shake off any excess and set aside.  The clumps from the buttermilk drizzle will cling to the chicken and create crispy bites of fried deliciousness.

8) Once the oil is hot and you have enough dredged, drop the strips into the oil a few at a time—be careful not to over-crowd the pan!  Cook strips about 1-2 minutes per side,or until they get beautiful and golden brown.
I usually dredge the next batch while the first one is cooking.

9) Once done cooking, remove the strips to a paper-towel lined plate to drain excess grease.  Once all the strips are cooked, serve with french fries or potato chips—or just a little side of ketchup or bbq sauce.  Whoever you make them for, they won't stay on the plate for long (unless they're vegetarian...but then I bet you could easily find other things to fry up in this buttermilk dredge)

Once you try these, no pre-frozen diner or fast-food finger will ever measure up.  And the best part is how easy the recipe is to experiment with!  Add your own spices, try some cayenne for a spicy kick, or a little Cajun seasoning for some zing!  Try some 5-spice and ginger for an Asian flare.  Throw the strips on top of salad or in a wrap, or cut them into bite size pieces and serve them as nuggets to the kids.

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