Monday, January 07, 2008

PAGE 42 - Crispy Chicken Strips

Sat 5 Jan 2008

I recently received a copy of The Great Big Butter Cookbook. It's a very large book and, because butter is used in pretty much anything you can imagine, it contains a diverse range of recipes.

So, for a trial recipe or two, I thought I'd be generous and allow Andy to choose. He didn't look that interested in going through the almost 500 pages of recipes so I told him to pick a page number between 9 and 469. He chose ... 42. And so, Project Page 42 begins.

Page 42 plays host to crispy chicken strips with sweet and sour dipping sauce. I was having visions of pots of hot oil, emergency trips to Wing Lee Hong and hours of hard work. So I was more than pleasantly surprised when I read the recipe. The only thing we had to buy was the chicken breast and this recipe has just cemented itself as an emergency supper favourite. I am not kidding - it was really easy!

The only ingredient we couldn't track down (and we did make an effort) was buttermilk. To approximate this, I used ordinary milk with a squeeze of lime juice.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Start by mixing some milk, hot pepper sauce (to taste) and lime juice (just a squeeze) and adding the chicken breast sliced into strips. Let this sit for around 10 minutes or so - while you prepare the crumb.

Take breadcrumbs and mix without about a third as much polenta (cornmeal), some grated Parmesan cheese (to taste) and black pepper (and salt, if you really must).

Melt some unsalted butter.

Have ready a baking tray. Remove the chicken from the milk mixture, coat well with the crumbs (if you were really keen you could do a double coat - but I think the great thing about this dish is how quick and hassle free it is, so let's not complicate things) and arrange on the tray.

Once all the the chicken is on the tray, drizzle the melted butter over the chicken. I used a table spoon and just sort of waved the butter over the meat. Because of the crumbs and the baking tray you don't need to cover each piece of chicken with melted butter: it spreads itself around.

Pop in the oven for 8 minutes, then turn over the chicken strips, baste the other side with more melted butter and return to the oven for another 8 minutes. If one side is looking a little anaemic, give the chicken no more than 3 or 4 minutes on that side.

While the chicken is cooking, make the dipping sauce. You really need to bear with me here. When I read the recipe for this I thought it sounded ... well ... awful. In the spirit of Project Page 42 I soldiered on.

Mix some apricot jam with some vinegar and mustard.

I know.

Now, we have some lovely apricot jam made by Laura, our host at Il Nido in Tuscany in the summer, so we were using good stuff, and the recipe says to use dry mustard, but we didn't have any so I substituted Dijon. Andy thought it wasn't spicy enough so we added some hot sauce. And it was REALLY GOOD.

Thanks to the milk, initially, and the butter while it's cooking, the chicken remains lovely and moist. It was so moist and tender we were able to cut our strips into pieces with the sides of our forks! However, it doesn't come across as greasy at all - just juicy.

To drink? Well, we made a bit of a mistake on that front. I chose a Turckheim Terroirs d'Alsace Gewurztraminer (Sables et Goulet). The choice was made on the basis that gewurz is usually a pretty natty pairing with spicy food. However, the spice in this dish is more mustard spice than chilli spice and, while the sweetness of the apricot jam was probably the only thing that saved the match, it was not an inspired choice at all. Which was a shame, because the wine was fantastic: incredibly floral (think honeysuckle) nose, with a honeyed palate, plenty of acid for structure, a gorgeous golden glow in the glass ... it was like a glass of sunshine on flowers. Yes, I did rather enjoy it!

Project Page 42 - an initial success. The Great Big Butter Cookbook provided a quick, practical and tasty supper. Everyone happy!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Alex, just rad your chicken recipe, sounds a bit like making frogs legs without the garlic!! Will try that on chicken one of these days, and let you know how it came out. But that dipping sauce...seriously?

1:28 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

I'm sure you could add some crushed garlic to the butter while you melt it and it would be delicious!

I know the sauce sounds scary but worth giving a go - not at all what I expected!

12:30 pm  

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