Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

Alright y’all, listen.

I know what you may be thinking, but before you say anything or just click away because you feel like this is just a bad idea, just stay for a few minutes hear me out.

Yes, I mean you too. Stay.

So, I too was skeptical when I first heard about this. Not gonna lie, I was even a tad bit grossed out. I like pickles on my sandwiches, but the idea of my chicken tasting like a pickle? Not so appetizing.

But fortunately, that’s not what’s going on here at all. Let me be clear: you are not going to take a bite of this and just taste pickle.

I promise, you won’t.

The whole purpose of brining in the first place is to flavor and tenderize the meat so that it stays juicy and doesn’t dry out while frying. Most times people do this by brining their chicken in buttermilk. I’ve brined chicken in both buttermilk and now, pickle juice.

Would you like to try and guess which one that I prefer?

Yep. The pickle juice. Seriously.

Normally when I did my buttermilk brines before, I would flavor the buttermilk with some spices, just to try and get some extra flavor infused into the meat. But this time, I didn’t have to bother; the pickle juice does all the work for me. All I did to prepare the chicken for the brine was throw it in a gallon size Ziploc bag, then pour the pickle juice over it, seal the bag, then put it in the fridge and walk away. That’s literally it. The spices in the pre-made pickle juices worked together to not only keep the meat moist, but they infused incredible flavor into it as well.

Once the chicken is taken out of the brine, it gets tossed into my tried & true flour mix & batter. This is the best fried chicken batter I’ve ever had or made, bar none. The crust is just out of this world. It crunches in your mouth. It’s full of flavor. It stays absolutely PUT. Even when it gets cold. Even after it’s been refrigerated, OVERNIGHT. Believe me, once you’ve made it this way, you will never go back to another fried chicken batter as long as you live.

I’m not worried about sharing this recipe with y’all because I know that once you put aside your doubts and just try this out, I’m going to make pickle brining believers out of all you. The results will speak for themselves. Your meat is going to be so tender and juicy, with just the *faintest* tang from the pickle juice. That tang is offset perfectly by the savory saltiness of the crust. It works– I was honestly surprised by how well it works.

You know how much I was won over by this? Every time we finish off a jar of pickles now, I keep the jar of juice in the back of my fridge, impatiently waiting until we go through enough of them to have enough juice to brine another batch of chicken so I can fry it up again. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what it is. Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #237, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

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Ingredients

  • About 3-4 lbs of chicken tenderloins
  • Up to 3 cups of pickle juice (enough to fully submerge the chicken, but if you don’t have enough then supplement with buttermilk)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite mix of dry herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  • Plenty of seasoning salt & pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

Directions

Place the chicken inside gallon size resealable plastic bags, or a large shallow dish with a lid. Pour the pickle juice over the chicken, seal and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt, pepper,  and dried herbs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, onion powder and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter. If need be, you can thin it out with a few tablespoons of additional water).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the pickle juice and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

Five Spice Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

So. Apparently, yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day, and not a single one of you told me ahead of time so I could get this post up sooner.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, guys–VERY disappointed.

If you’ve been following me for a while then you KNOW how seriously I take fried chicken. There are few foods that I love more, I’m ALWAYS down for it, and as I’ve said in previous posts: I worked very hard and practiced quite a lot to become one of the cookers of fried chicken that I know. I wear it like a badge of honor. Everyone loves my fried chicken. Everyone.

For a long time, whenever I made it I mainly stuck to one recipe/technique that I shared a while ago on the blog. It’s definitely still a winner that I highly recommend, but I also recently decided to start experimenting with different flavors to see if I could put a different kind of twist to the standard ‘flavor’ of salty/peppery flour and egg mix that most fried chicken recipes have. The first experiment I did was with this Mexican rendition of fried chicken where the chicken was marinated in oregano-spiced buttermilk, then dipped in a flour mix containing cumin and chili powder; spices both used heavily in Mexican cuisine. Because I MUST eat biscuits with my fried chicken, I also included a recipe for drop biscuits that I flavored with mixed dried herbs.

I’m happy to report back to you guys that I’ve found yet another twist to give to my precious meal of fried chicken and biscuits that’s every bit as delicious as it looks. This time it’s given an Asian flair, with several differences to both the flavors and techniques that I’m used to when making the dish.

First, whereas most chicken is soaked overnight in buttermilk before frying, here it’s instead marinaded in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger and Chinese five spice powder. I was skeptical of this at first for a couple reasons:  buttermilk is supposed to be what keeps the meat moist and since I strictly use chicken breasts, this is key to me. Second, sesame oil is a VERY potent ingredient where a little usually goes a long way.

The second change that I noticed was first that the wet wash contained not only rice flour (something I’ve previously only baked with and never for savory dishes) but a LOT of cornstarch. More cornstarch than I think I’ve ever used in a single dish, ever. I do know that some fried chicken recipes use cornstarch because it helps the breading stick to the chicken and not slide off. I’ve scooped a tablespoon or two into my dry flour mixes before myself. But this time, the rice flour and cornstarch are used in the wet wash, which I thought was different. However, I decided to go with the recipe and just…see what happened.

These biscuits are probably the most ‘out there’ biscuits I’ve ever made. I could’ve just made standard herb biscuits with this dish and it would’ve turned out fine. However, because I was giving the fried chicken an Asian twist, I wanted to see if I could successfully do the same thing with the biscuits. The first change to them is that there is a generous amount of cornmeal in the dough. The second modification I did was to add two spices to the dough which I thought would give it those Asian flavors I was looking for without being too overpowering: Chinese five spice powder and ground ginger.

This meal was so good, guys. In the first place, this is one of the best fried chicken batters, ever. The crust is sturdy and crunchy, and all that cornstarch is a godsend: the breading doesn’t go anywhere, not even when it’s cooled off. You can taste the flavor of the sesame oil marinade but it isn’t overpowering. The ginger and five spice gives it an aromatic spicy-sweet flavor that’s a good compliment to the saltiness of the breading. Because the biscuits have cornmeal in them, they have a slightly coarser texture, a darker color and (my favorite part) a crustier exterior that makes them have the texture of both biscuits AND cornbread (my other staple side with fried chicken). The ginger and five spice give it that same spicy-sweet flavor that’s in the aftertaste of the chicken.  The only thing that made this even better was when I sliced a biscuit, sandwiched the chicken between two halves, then drizzled the whole thing with honey and Sriracha. Yum.

I was VERY pleased with how this dish turned out and am amped to be able to share it with all of you here, and at Fiesta Friday #179, co-hosted this week by  Petra @ Food Eat Love and Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Five Spice Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart

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Ingredients

For Chicken Marinade

  • About 3 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in halves
  • 6 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne or black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced or grated ginger 

For Assembly

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

For Biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 cup buttermilk (plus more as needed)

 

Directions

For Chicken: Place the chicken in re-sealable Ziploc bag(s). In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, five spice powder, garlic powder, cayenne or black pepper and minced ginger. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag and massage the bag with your hands until chicken is thoroughly coated with marinade inside. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, five spice, and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Work in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

For Biscuits: Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, five spice powder and ginger with a fork. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the bowl . Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool completely.

Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

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There are a select few places in my hometown to go if you want to get good fried chicken.

I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes when I say this, but Kentucky Fried Chicken does not happen to be one of them. While I personally don’t think that their chicken is nasty per se, I don’t feel like it’s as good as it used to be in the early 90’s. Ever since KFC tried to ‘keep up’ with the other fast food chains and their ever evolving and growing menus and adding a bunch of other extraneous stuff, I feel like their chicken has suffered in quality. I understand that businesses want to keep up with the Joneses. However, when you’re good at one particular thing, sometimes you just need to stay in your lane, you know what I mean?

When I was a freshman in high school, my city got our first and only Popeyes Chicken- and you would have thought that the Pope had come to town. For two solid weeks, that place was absolutely packed to the max, with the line for the drive through going clear down the street. Not that it was unjustified- Popeyes chicken is  a major step up from KFC in terms of quality in general, and their biscuits are to die for. However, that furor died down and these days, while the chicken is still usually pretty good, there are some days that are largely hit and miss.

Triple Dip Fried Chicken3

There used to be two Ponderosas in my city as well, and while I’m not a huge fan of buffet food, I will say that their chicken wings/drumsticks were very delicious.However, they’ve both closed now so that point is kind of irrelevant at this point.

 We have a business down the street from my house that serves up chicken, gizzards and standard Southern sides. The food is pretty decent, however I was put off the last time that I went there this past winter and saw that the owner was so cheap that he didn’t turn the heat on and the employees were working in their coats just to stay warm. Not only does that strike me as unsanitary, but I was appalled at the idea of an owner that would force his employees to work in those conditions. Haven’t been back since, suffice to say.

Triple Dip Fried Chicken2

As decent as those other places are, everyone in my city knows that the best place to get fried chicken, is (rather ironically) a fish market. Inside, it’s a room of glass display cases filled with various fish to buy whole and fresh. In addition to the fish, they also for some reason have a whole array of Southern style food that they make to order in the back. The place is kinda small. And being a fish market, it stinks. However, it does serve the best chicken you’re going to get in the city. It’s so good, that nobody even calls it by it’s true name. It’s gained a catchy little nickname over the years instead: “Crack Chicken”.

Yep. I’m not kidding.

Triple Dip Fried Chicken5

Maybe I should have added a caveat to the beginning of this post: there a select few places to go in my city to get good  fried chicken if you’re going out to eat. If you want the best fried chicken period- well, not to blow my own horn or anything but…then you need to come to my house.

I make really, really REALLY good fried chicken, guys. It’s just the truth. I’m not a fan of how messy and greasy it can get sometimes, and it did take me a while to learn, but once I did, I really hit my stride.

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Good things come in 3’s, right? I don’t know anyone that would disagree with that when it comes to triple dipped fried chicken.The skin is the best part; the crispier the better. So with a triple dip, you better believe this chicken is the real deal when it comes to the crunch. I made this chicken for my family as part of an authentic Southern meal alongside these Hushpuppies. It was a hit. But c’mon: triple-dipped fried chicken? How can you go wrong there?

I’m taking these to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #30, party this week, co-hosted by Margy @La Petite Casserole . Hope to see you all there 😉

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Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups beer or water
  • 1 quart of vegetable oil, for frying
  • 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces

Directions

1. In one medium bowl, mix together 3 cups of flour, garlic salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, smoked paprika and poultry seasoning.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 1/3 cups flour, salt,1/4 teaspoon of pepper, egg yolks and beer. You may need to thin with additional beer if the batter is took thick.

3. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 350°.Moisten each piece of chicken with a little water, then dip in the dry mix. Shake off excess and dip in the wet mix, then dip in the dry mix once more.

4. Carefully place chicken pieces in the hot oil. Fry for 15 t0 18 minutes, or until well browned. Smaller pieces will not take as long. Large pieces may take longer. Remove and drain on paper towels before serving.