The Kid has been living here at the house for the past few months, until a suitable abode could be procured which didn’t necessitate a roommate (it’s an only child thing).A cute little place, not far from us has been found, and our little occupant is in the process of moving in. And while The Kid will come home for family dinners from time to time, this week is really the last week in which we will sit down for regular suppers.
So, when I was figuring out what nights The Kid would be home from work at supper time, and what I would make, my child had a meal request.
My buttermilk chicken tenders.It’s a family favorite: strips of very juicy white meat, with the tang of buttermilk, and a seriously crispy coating. But juicy and crispy from one piece of chicken can be extremely problematic. So, what to do? And how to do it?
My answer was science.
I was looking for a coating that was insanely crispy, thin and delicate. I desired golden, salty fairy wings.
Fat-free buttermilk would give me flavor. It’s viscous enough to cling so that I wouldn’t need any eggs. Plus, and most importantly, it’s chock full of acid. Which I needed for the other part of my dredge.
Number two was self-rising flour. This is flour fortified with salt and baking powder. Double-acting baking powder has, like the name implies, two opportunities to rise. One is at room temperature, when it comes into contact with acid. The second is in the presence of heat. It can impart a salty, bitter flavor, but the buttermilk tang, salt, and pepper will entirely negate that.
For 1 ½ pounds of tenders, I use about 2 cups of fat-free buttermilk, seasoned, and poured into a shallow dish large enough to easily fit the chicken. I use three or four cups of self-rising, also seasoned. It may seem like a lot of flour, but I promise you don’t want to run out halfway through cooking, and be stuck scrambling with nothing left but those weird lumps made when buttermilk drips into the flour. The breading system is three-stage; flour, then buttermilk, and then back once more into the flour before finally frying.
I also highly recommend using gloves. And a second person, to actually fry each piece while you’re coating, makes the whole ordeal almost simple.
The procedure is also pretty specific. Unlike the way I usually like to cook, the tenders cannot be done in advance. To get that ultra-crispiness you have to bread the chicken immediately before frying. Otherwise that first, acid-based rise will disipate and you won’t get the full ethereal crust.
And the frying portion of the program is kinda picky, too.I cook the chicky in my 10-inch cast iron pan. I pour in vegetable oil about 1/3 of the way up the side and heat it to 350 degrees. When placed in the pan (don’t crowd them—no more than four at a time), the oil should not be deep enough to cover them. When the bottom is golden flip and cook the other side. If you oil temperature stays near 350, by the time the tenders are golden all over, the chicken is cooked through, but still crazy juicy. Perfect.I serve them with ranch dressing and honey mustard for dipping. Our side is always a green salad, to make ourselves feel just a bit better for all the gorging that takes place.
Thanks for your time.