SMOKY BUTTERMILK CHICKEN STRIPS

Smoky Buttermilk Chicken Strips.

I have a personal connection with chicken that I can eat with my hands. It brings out the instinctive side to me that just wants to touch things. It’s a character flaw of mine that I have a compulsive need to touch things: clothes in shops, fabric, pictures. However, food tends to have a ‘no touch’ policy and is often reserved for knives and forks but there’s something about chicken in a breadcrumb coat that just gives the green light to pick up with my hands and go in.

I’m not the biggest fan of a chicken breast. I have never understood the world’s championing of the breast as it has a tendency to dry out very quickly and due to its thickness, I have only ever found pleasurable bites in the surface of the chicken as it gets very bland and boring to the middle. However, with this style of chicken, breast is beast as it is soaked all the way through which ensures every morsel of the bird is moist and tasty.

These are theoretically more of a goujon, I guess purely because of the shape they are cut in but a goujon conjures up images of something that come on the side of something greater. But I am under no illusion and I see absolutely no harm in relying on a big plate of breaded chicken bits to satisfy me of a weekday evening. I need nothing else. So while I don’t necessarily refer to this as chicken goujons, be aware that these can also be made in small quantities and served along some kind of grander dish.

This process is a variation on a recipe that I wrote for the Yummy Mummy’s World website last year but I kept the breadcrumb coating relatively simple as it was accompanied by a lemon spiked mayonnaise (which does go great with this recipe) however I have adapted it for my own personal life to include a smoky pepperiness to spice up a lazy evening. And I do mean lazy. I have made this with no accompaniments or sides – just a huge plate of ‘fried’ chicken and some spicy sauces to lick my fingers clean whilst watching garbage television. Dishes are created for such an event, and this is usually mine.

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Make the buttermilk by combining a cup of full fat milk and a tablespoon of cider vinegar (or lemon juice, your call) in a jug and allow to stand. Slice your chicken breast into even slices. Well… even-ish. You’ll see from my pictures that they resemble more off-kilter goujons but we’ll just go with it. Cut them as even as you can however so that the cooking time can be as level as possible across the board. Place the cuts in a shallow-ish dish before pouring over your buttermilk. Cover the dish and allow to sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200C. In another shallow bowl, pour in a generous amount of breadcrumbs (from a tub, don’t worry about making your own, we haven’t got the energy) before adding some freshly cracked black pepper, some salt, some smoked paprika, the tiniest pinch of all spice, some chili powder and some cumin before combining with a fork. Place a sheet of baking parchment on your largest tray – this is purely for potential mess purposes.

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Now the fun part. Take your buttermilk chicken from the fridge and start the dipping process. Dip a piece of chicken in the smoky breadcrumbs, roll it around like a pig in dirt, give it a slight shake and place on the baking tray. Repeat this with every piece of chicken until they are crumbily coated (crumbily? Food writers are totally allowed to make up their own words). Drizzle a very small amount of rapeseed oil (or any flavourless oil like vegetable) over them before sliding in the hot oven for roughly 30-35 minutes by which they should have crisped up.

I feel it’s my duty to write a mini disclaimer to say that if you intend on ripping these apart with your fingers on a sofa, then I recommend allowing them to cool slightly so that you don’t do yourself an injury. Nobody wants to be in A&E for mouth burns over some chicken.

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It’s so much fun. You can really get your hands dirty and feel no kind of way about it. Also, please excuse my flagrant use of asterisks on ‘fried’ earlier. I do so as this recipe conjures up the same feel, comfort and finger licking goodness of fried without ever once touching the sides of a fat fryer. One of my biggest culinary confessions is that I am actually terrified of a deep fat fryer (and a slow cooker, but that’s neither here nor there) and very often opt to bake my ‘fried’ food than actually fry them. I would say it’s ‘healthier’ but the fact I smother them in several sauces completely cancels that out but whatever. You should never be looking at breaded chicken recipes in the name of health anyway. You have only yourself to blame.

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