Winner, Winner…Chicken Dinner!

Okay, kids. Here’s another recipe adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen recipe collection. This fried chicken comes out crunchy and juicy every time, and it takes very little work to make it all happen. You can make this with chicken pieces on the bone, but I prefer to make boneless chicken strips. It makes them easier to dunk in gravy, and we all know everything tastes better when dunked in gravy, right? Marinating the chicken strips in buttermilk makes them juicy on the inside, and the “shaggy crumbs” method of breading makes them crunchy on the outside. My version uses only 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts but don’t let that fool you. This recipe made 18 chicken strips.
To prepare the chicken strips, you’ll need:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
One 16 fluid oz. bottle of buttermilk (low fat is okay, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons of Morton Nature’s Season Salt (Lawry’s would also work)
½ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper (optional, but very tasty)
Trim the chicken breasts to remove all fat. Slice each breast lengthwise into 1/2″ thick strips. In a medium bowl with a tight-fitting lid, pour in the entire bottle of buttermilk, the season salt and the cayenne pepper. Whisk to combine, and then add the chicken strips, seal the lid, give it a good shake and place in the refrigerator to marinate for one hour.
To prepare the flour mixture, you’ll need:
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of Morton Nature’s Season Salt (or Lawry’s)
½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
½ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper (it’s optional again, but so tasty!)
Toss all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Once your chicken is ready, remove it from the fridge and measure off 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk mixture. Pour it into the flour mixture and stir with a fork or wire whisk to start forming your “shaggy crumbs” coating. It sounds weird, but those bigger crumbs in your coating are what will make the crust crispy and crunchy. If needed, add more buttermilk a little at a time. Don’t worry about using buttermilk that had raw chicken in it, either. This is all going to be fried in hot oil, so it’ll be fine. When your crumb coating is ready, it should look like this:
The shaggy crumb method is the key to crunchy chicken strips.
One at a time, remove a strip from the marinade and drop it into the bowl of flour. Quickly cover the strip and using your hands, press down on the chicken strip to pack on the coating. Don’t try to flatten it onto the chicken – you just want to make sure it sticks really well. Lay each coated strip onto a sheet of waxed paper and move on to the next. When you fry them, start with the strips you coated first. That gives them time to set up a little before frying, which helps the coating to stick. Here’s how your strips should look once coated:
Those beautiful shaggy crumbs are going to turn into crispy fried perfection.
How to fry the chicken:
Using a deep, heavy bottom pot, add 1 ½” of canola oil and heat to 350F. To test if your oil is hot enough, you can drop one of your larger shaggy crumbs in. It should immediately start to bubble in the hot oil. If it doesn’t, wait for it to get hotter or you’ll get soggy, greasy chicken. Once the oil is hot, cook chicken strips 3-4 at a time and cover loosely with a lid. Cook until golden brown on each side. Don’t play with them too often. You don’t want to destroy that crumb coating. Just given them a gentle turn every once in a while. Remove to paper towels to drain, and move on to the next batch. Remember, because you’re using boneless breasts and the strips are fairly thin, these will cook pretty quickly.
When they’re done, you’ll have a platter of crunchy golden perfection. I like to serve this up with mashed potatoes (I stir in a little sour cream and a lot of real butter), my easy cheater buttermilk biscuits (I’ll share that recipe later), and some chicken gravy (made with chicken broth instead of milk). Throw in a bottle of Savannah Bee Black Sage honey, and you’ll be in hog heaven. This is southern fried comfort food at its very best. Now grab a fork and a bib and let’s dig in.

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