Updated: 7/2/2016 If you’re one of the dozen or so loyal readers of Onion Rings and Things (thank you!), you probably noticed that this popcorn chicken post got a delicious makeover.
For one thing, I shot a new set of photos because the old one I had up was, umm, for a lack of better word, ugly. It was dimly lit, poorly styled, white balance was off, and so many more reasons why it was all wrong. But let’s not get into my daily frustrations as a food photographer today, breaks my heart to think of all of the wonderful food I’ve cooked yet never made it to the blog because the pictures didn’t come out right.
Secondly, the recipe. I went to a potluck a week ago and one of my girlfriends, who loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen as much as I do, brought with her a bucketful of these golden nuggets. I kid you not, they were gone in a flash the minute she laid them on the table! Everyone at the party, including myself, were
fighting over beelining for them and for good reason. Moist and flavorful on the inside, and light and crisp on the outside, they were absolutely addicting.
I wouldn’t have been much of a food blogger if I didn’t chase her down the whole evening for the recipe, right? Of course, I did! I love discovering new ways of making family favorites. When you think you have something good, someone comes along and does it better. I mean, my version is delicious but I have to concede, hers totally blows mine out the water.
The interesting thing is, my recipe and hers are pretty similar. We both marinate the chicken in buttermilk. We both use a combination of flour and cornstarch for the breading. And we both follow proper deep-frying techniques (350 F hot oil, not overcrowding the pan, etc). The only difference is, she adds baking powder to the flour mixture! Isn’t it amazing how you can turn a recipe around with just one ingredient?
Anyway, here’s the original post, the way I wrote it almost a year ago. 🙂
G’s niece and nephew are on summer vacation and they love to drop by at the house to swim in the pool or play video games with the uncle. As we were expecting them this afternoon, I marinated a few pounds of cut-up chicken breasts in buttermilk last night, intending to make a hefty batch of popcorn chicken for the kiddos to snack on. And how they loved each and every nugget! If I may say so myself, the bite-sized morsels were indeed amazing. With tender meat and crispy coating, it was a battle among us who got the last piece!
Popcorn chicken is one of the easiest things you can prepare for a light lunch or after school (after work!) snack for the family. There are a few steps, however, that will make these crispy treats ultra-special.
- Marinate the chicken in a mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce for at least 4 hours or overnight for best results. This keeps the meat moist and flavorful.
- Use a mixture of cornstarch, flour and baking powder for a breading that’s light and crisp.
- Heat the oil to about 350 F which is considered optimal for deep-frying frying. If you don’t have a thermometer, dip a wooden stick into the oil to check for temp. The oil should bubble wildly around the stick. Use oil with high smoke points such as canola or peanut oil. Do not overcrowd pan and fry in batches as needed. Make sure there is enough room to stir and turn the chicken pieces during the deep-frying. Heat the oil back to 350 F before adding the next batch. Correct temperature allows the breading to adhere well and keeps the food from absorbing too much oil.
- Contrary to common practice, do not drain fried foods on paper towels as this will make them soggy. Instead, drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or in a metal colander set over a bowl.
- I cut my chicken into about 1-inch pieces as I prefer a more meat than breading ratio. If you want more crunch, cut chicken into smaller pieces.
I included a recipe for a simple honey mustard sauce you can easily whip up in a jiffy. It’s my go-to dip for most things but you can certainly use Ranch, BBQ sauce, Srichacha mayo, plum sauce or any of your favorite dipping sauces. Or, skip them altogether. This popcorn chicken is so good, it doesn’t need a lot of help to be yummy. 🙂
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- ¾ cup flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- canola or peanut oil
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Trim chicken of any excess fat. Wash and drain well. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
- In a large bowl, combine buttermilk and hot sauce. Stir until blended. Add chicken, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain chicken..
- In a bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, Cajun seasoning and salt. Whisk until well-dispersed.
- Add chicken pieces and with hands, toss until fully coated.
- In a thick-bottomed pan over medium heat, heat about 2-inches deep of oil. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until golden, crisp and cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove from pan and drain on a colander set over a bowl. Serve hot with sauce of choice. Do NOT overcrowd pan, fry in batches as needed. Serve immediately with honey mustard sauce.
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, honey and lemon juice. Stir until smooth and well blended.