Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Best Chicken Tenders Ever!

So, hubby and I don't really measure things out when we cook, so it can be a difficult task to give someone a recipe for most of the dishes we make. However, since some of my friends kept pestering me for the recipe, I decided I would take the time to measure everything out.  

You'll need:

3 lbs of chicken breast meat
2 & 1/8 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning (or some other kind of cajun seasoning)
Salt Garlic Powder (we use granulated garlic)
Onion Powder
3 eggs
1/8 cup milk
1 TBSP vegetable oil
Oil for frying

And, I recommend having a helper! This task goes much quicker and easier when two people work together. My husband was my helper. Sorry, you can't borrow him. :)

Get out a cutting mat and two bowls or containers (see photo above). Go ahead and get out all the ingredients and tools you'll need- like a sharp knife, a fork or two, and a towel to wipe your hands on.

Slice chicken breasts into tenders. You'll have to decide how big you want the strips.  I think we tend to make 4 or so strips per breast. Try to make them similar in size.

Now you're going to make what we call a "dredge".  Combine 3 eggs, 1/8 cup milk, 1 TSP oil and 1/8 cup flour and wisk together until there are no more lumps.  If you need to use substitutes for egg and milk, go ahead. Whatever works for you.

Next, you're going to make your flour mixture.  Combine 2 cups flour, 1 TBSP Tony's, 1 heaping TBSP salt (we like our tenders salty, so you may want to use a smidge less than a TBSP), and 1/2 TBSP garlic powder. Blend together well with a fork. 

In order to make these tenders really flavorful, we also season the chicken.  Season liberally with Tony's, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Tony's already has salt in it, so you won't need to add anymore. However, if you are not using Tony's or a general seasoning with salt in it, you may want to add some.  We season them liberally on one side, them toss them together. Now is a good time to begin heating your oil.  Pour plenty of oil in the pot so your tenders will be fully submerged. If you dont have enough oil to do that, you'll just have to flip the tenders half way through. No biggie. Heat at about medium-high, or approximately 350 F. (My husband gave me the temperature- we actually don't test the temp, so I'm not sure exactly how correct that is.)

Now that you have everything seasoned and prepared, you're ready to begin the process.  Dunk chicken in egg mixture (this is called dredging), and then toss them in the flour mixture so they are well coated.  You'll have to do this in batches, so while you fry one batch, you can dredge and flour another.  If you get the first batched dredged and floured, and the oil isn't hot enough, do some tidying.  I like to clean as I go so I don't have a huge mess to contend with at the end.

Now it's time to stick them suckers in the bubble bath.  Do so gently, because you don't want to start a grease fire. You may need to adjust the heat as you fry- sometimes turning up the heat when you put in cold chicken, and then turning it down a bit if you notice things are browning too quickly. Each batch will probably need to fry for about 5 minutes. We don't really time ours, though... so this is an estimate.

Remove chicken and place on a plate with a paper towel to drain. Or, you may want to put them on a rack so they don't sit in the grease.

You'll notice the little "legs" on these tenders. That's what makes them so crisp and tasty, in my opinion. These are created through the dredging and flouring process. When the tenders are placed in the hot oil, the moisture in the dredge mixture seeks to escape, but is sealed in by the flour.

Go ahead, since you're having chicken tenders, fry up some frenchies.  I like mine extra crunchy and sprinkled with cayenne pepper along with a few squirts of ketchup. Okay, have some carrots in ranch too... so you can say you had something that wasn't fried.

Now you may be wondering what to do with all that oil. That's a lot of oil to just dump out!

I recommend filtering your oil so you can use it again.  Get out a strainer and a paper towel.  Place (or hold) the strainer over a bowl, and put the paper towel on top.  This method reminds me of brewing coffee, although I wouldn't want to drink oil!  In fact, you can even use a coffee filter, if you so choose. Pour the oil into the strainer.  Do it slowly, so you don't make a mess or overflow!  The fried left-overs may be a thick sludge on the bottom of your pan- don't try to scrape it. Just get out as much oil as you can, and then wash out the pot. We usually keep our oil in our big pot (covered, of course) to use again. If I just need a small amount of oil to fry something, I'll take a tablespoon or two of the oil from the big pot and put it in my skillet. We usually get quite a few uses out of the oil before we dump it.  Save yourself some money, and strain it!

Many people don't season their flour, or they season the flour but don't season the meat.  Season both, especially when you're going to be dredging.  When you season the flour, taste a bit of it (yes, taste the flour) to see if it is salty and seasoned enough for your tastes.

If you prefer, purchase pre-cut tenders. This makes the whole process much quicker.

How much did this meal cost?  The chicken cost about $6.00 (with tax) because we got it on sale. The oil was reused (so, I tend to think that means it's free, since I've already put the cost of it in another meal), and the we already had the seasonings and flour and such on hand.

This meal fed 2 adults and 3 children and we still had leftovers.  I would say that this recipe could feed 4-6 adults, especially if you prepared more sides.

Try making milk gravy for dipping.

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