by Cal Virgilio
We’ve all had great fried chicken once in our lives. The best I’ve had was at a small shack 45 minutes off route 95 in North Carolina. I remember the moist meat and the crunchy, crispy texture, and I thought maybe I could replicate it at home. Though I’ve tried a few times with various recipes, I could never match the crunchy breading. So in the midst of brainstorming 30 ways to use granola as an ingredient, I thought I’d give it a try on chicken. Perhaps granola would finally give my fried chicken that extra crunch I’ve been looking for.
I chose to use our all-natural honey pecan variety. I figured the sweet and salty flavor would complement the chicken and go well with a honey mustard dipping sauce. After doing some research on numerous recipes, I started to build the foundations of my fried chicken.
Boneless Chicken Strips: Frying food is messy and can make your house smell like the kitchen of a fast food joint. I wanted to spend the least amount of time deep frying, so this meant ditching the bone-in chicken legs and going with thinly-cut strips of chicken breast.
Buttermilk Brine: The recipes I referenced used a few different brines, but I chose to go with buttermilk. It gave the chicken great flavor and helped keep a juicy and moist.
Double Dipping: For an extra crunchy breading, I went with the following dipping sequence: buttermilk–flour–buttermilk–granola. This gave a more layered breading than if I would have just dipped the chicken in granola.
The result of this recipe was a comparable crunchy texture to the chicken I had in North Carolina. It also had the added flavor of the honey pecan granola. And, while I am not a huge fan of mustard, I must say that dipping the chicken in a homemade honey mustard sauce completed the recipe.
A cleaner, healthier alternative: I realize not everyone wants to deep-fry food at home, so I’ve included an alternate recipe that lightly pan-fries the chicken strips, and then finishes them off in the oven. The crust will not be as crunchy in this recipe, but you’ll still get the great flavor and a less stinky kitchen when you’re finished!
Honey Pecan Fried Chicken
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 bag of Bethlehem All Natural Honey Pecan Granola
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 2 cups flour
- Salt & Pepper For Seasoning
- Vegetable Oil for frying
Homemade Honey Mustard
- 1/2 cup Grey Poupon mustard
- 1/2 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Honey Mustard Recipe: Mix three ingredients together until the honey and mustard are blended together. Season with salt if preferred.
Fried Chicken Chicken Recipe:
Begin by slicing the chicken breasts, lengthwise, into half-inch strips. In a bowl, add the chicken strips and pour buttermilk over top until the chicken is just about submerged. Mix chicken and buttermilk with your hands to assure each piece is fully coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
After refrigerating the chicken, pour the granola into a food processor and process until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Next, add the granola to a small mixing bowl. In two other bowls, add the rest of your buttermilk in one and the two cups of flour in the other. Season flour liberally with salt and pepper and give it a quick stir with a spoon to incorporate.
Now, drain the chicken and pat dry. Dredge the chicken strips a few at a time into the flour, then dip in the buttermilk and allow excess to drip off. Next, dip the chicken in the granola crumbs, pressing the chicken firmly to cover with granola. Put the chicken on a clean platter or wax paper while you heat the oil.
Pour 3 inches of oil into a deep skillet or Dutch oven. The oil should not come more than halfway up the sides of the pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, I have got a cool trick instead: to check if your oil is ready for frying, stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and touch the bottom of the pot. If you see bubbles around the sides of the spoon, the oil is ready!
Add the chicken strips, 4 to 5 at a time, and turn them frequently to assure a consistent frying and golden color. Cook the chicken for 9 to 10 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a rack to drain excess oil. Repeat to cook the remaining pieces. Serve hot.
Lightly Fried Alternate Recipe:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Follow the above recipe until it comes time to cook the chicken. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken strips, 3 to 4 at a time, and cook on each side for 2 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and transfer to a baking tray. Once you’ve seared all the chicken, place tray in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. This recipe is cleaner and a healthier alternative to deep frying.