Happy Outlander Season 5 Premier Day! Woot!
(Actually, they released the season premier early so I watched it yesterday.....really great adaption of "the longest day ever" and a wonderful kick off to the season).
So yes...I'm an Outlander fan. I've read all the books - multiple times (and if you're familiar with them, you know how long they are) - and love the show. In honor of the new season of Outlander starting today, I decided to cook out of Theresa Carle-Sanders' "Outlander Kitchen" cookbook. She also has a website, Outlander Kitchen.
The author notes that this isn't a particularly period recipe - it's more "inspired by" than "authentic". I further tweaked it with some lemon in the brine and extra seasonings to the flour. I had originally planned on using boneless chicken thighs but chicken tenders were on sale this week and they do make for a good frying option if you're not doing bone-in.
1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders, tendon trimmed out
For the brine:
3 tea bags (I used Typhoo, a strong English black tea)
1 lemon, quartered
2 springs fresh rosemary
1-2 bay leaves
10 or so peppercorns
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt
The brining process isn't complicated but it does take a couple hours. The original recipe doesn't call for lemon but if you have sweet tea - you need lemon. You add all of your brine ingredients to a heat proof container (I just used a rubbermaid style one) and then add in 2 cups of boiling water. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar and let the tea brew. When you feel the tea is strong enough, add about 2 cups of ice and stir to melt, then put the brine in the fridge for half an hour or so until it cools down.
Once the brine is cool, add the chicken tenders to the mix - there should be enough of the brine to cover the chicken. I let the chicken brine for about 4 hours total in the fridge.
I drained off the brine and just used a couple paper towels to pat the chicken tenders dry.
For the coating:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil for cooking (usually more than you think you need)
Coating is fairly straight forward. Add the buttermilk to a shallow baking dish and whisk in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Add all the flour and the seasonings to another baking dish and whisk together.
First go through and dredge all the tenders in the seasoned flour. I set up a sheet pan with a baking rack in it to set them on. (I also set up a 2nd one with paper towels in the bottom to drain the chicken as it comes out of the oil).
After the first coating of flour was done, I did a little trick I like to do with fried chicken - I took a couple tablespoons of buttermilk and drizzled it over the flour, and used a fork to toss it in - you're not trying to make a batter, you're just trying to create some clumps in the flour. Those clumps end up giving the finished coating of the chicken extra crispy bits when frying (which as we all know is the best part!)
The floured chicken fingers get dipped in the buttermilk and then dredged a 2nd time in the flour (with as many clumps sticking as you can get).
For frying, I used a 4 quart pan with about 2 inches of oil in it. I prefer to use a deep pan because it keeps the splatter to a minimum....it did mean I could only fry about 4 tenders at a time, so I ended up doing several batches. Ah well. I had to add some extra oil to the pan once or twice in between batches, as is normal.
It only takes a couple minutes to fry a tender, just until they are golden brown. It's useful to use an instant read digital thermometer to make sure the oil is at 350F when the chicken goes in and that the chicken gets up to about 160F internally before pulling it out.
I drained the chicken off to one side and let it cool down a bit.
Meanwhile I made a quick dipping sauce of grainy dijon mustard and honey, as well as a simple cole slaw to go with this.
As a bonus recipe, I also made the corn muffins out of Outlander Kitchen. I did a half recipe and baked them in mini loaf pans - it made 4, which is plenty for us.
You know.....it's fried chicken so they can't be all bad, right? And it was indeed tasty. I did add extra seasoning to the flour over what the recipe called for, so I did feel they were seasoned well. But if I'm going to be nitpicky......the flavor of the tea was very subtle and I wonder if brining them overnight would help with that and let the flavor really soak in. Once the chicken started cooling, the coating really didn't stick well to to the meat, which is annoying. I always make extra fried chicken when I make it (because if I'm making the mess, I want 2 meals out of it) and then reheat in the oven, and again the coating didn't stick well on the chicken during reheat.
I was not a fan of the cornbread - I prefer a sweeter cornbread. I didn't like the creamed corn that I used in it - I tried Aldi brand creamed corn, and I'm usually an Aldi fan but this was more just mashed kernels, very little creaminess to it, and it really affected the overall texture of the cornbread, so there's some user error in that. I won't buy Aldi creamed corn again.
Just as a note - my standard recipe for doing fried chicken tenders is a 24 hour brine in a heavily seasoned buttermilk, then straight into a heavily seasoned flour for a single dredge, then into the fryer. There's still some issues with the coating staying on once cooled - there always is with frying skinless chicken - but not to the degree that I saw with the tea brined chicken. The buttermilk brine is still my preferred method for tenders. Ruhlman's fried chicken is still my gold standard for bone in fried chicken.
Overall Rating: 6 out of 10. Tasty, but I didn't feel the brine added a lot to the chicken, nor did the coating stick well to the chicken. I probably wouldn't make again, as I have other recipes I prefer more.
Ease of Preparation: 4 out of 10. These weren't particularly hard to make, clean up is always a project for deep frying - it makes a lot of dishes, plus general mess of deep frying. Made a LOT of dirty dishes. You do have to plan ahead because the brine takes a while to cool down and then the chicken needs a couple hours in it.
Will It Freezer Meal? Fried chicken is never better than when it's fresh out of the oil....but you could brine and bread the chicken, flash freeze it on a sheet pan, and store it in the freezer, to be fried from frozen (will take a couple extra minutes).