Skillet White Meat Popcorn Chicken and Potato Skin Poppers

Okay, so I know these tidbits aren’t desserts, but let me explain: For the past 5 years- yes, 5 years-I’ve been trying to make good fried chicken. Not just “Oh, hey, you didn’t burn the skin,” or “Yeah it’s fried, alright. Congrats on not burning down the apartment!” but real, KFC/Popeye’s/Chick-Fil-A-tasting fried chicken. I’ve tried salt-brining, marinating with 50 spices and liquids, post-fry baking, double coating-you name it, I have painstakingly, always failingly, tried it. There’s just never been anything special about it.

But thanks to a foodie trend of fried chicken and waffles, different magazines and bloggers have been writing guides to frying chicken. And not to be out-experienced by trendy magazines, my ever taste-testing coworker gave me a great tip: “Girl, keep it simple.” Aggregating all this data, I finally nailed it.

So here’s what I’ve learned: You MUST have a cast iron skillet. Don’t think you can just use any ‘ol big pot or pan. It has to be cast iron and it has to be pre-seasoned. *Sidenote: pre-seasoned means heated and rubbed with grease, then cooled. Most new cast iron skillets come already pre-seasoned. A cast iron skillet will keep your oil at a good all-over temp and give you the perfect fried chicken skin.

Also, you MUST use peanut oil for frying. It’s good for temp. and it’s good for taste.

Finally, experts usually say the temp. of the oil (you’ll need an oil/candy thermometer) must reach a certain degree the whole time. Lies. As long as your oil is between 300-350 degrees, you’re fine. And if you don’t have a thermometer, flick some water into the oil-if it crackles, you’re golden (literally) 😉

And going back to the non-dessert theme of this post: If I, the girl who still calls field goals/touchdowns ‘getting some points,’ can watch the superbowl, then hell has frozen over and I can contribute this non-sugary post.

…And btw, the potato skin poppers are incredible, so they’ve been included too.

Happy savory Friday!

Meris’s “It took 5 years” Popcorn Chicken (Officially approved by Ms. Calloway, Fried Chicken Expert) (Makes roughly 50 pieces popcorn chicken)

Equipment:

  • A deep, large pre-seasoned cast iron skillet
  • Oil/candy thermometer (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Cooling rack
  • Rimmed baking sheet (optional)
  • Large ziplock bag or airtight container
  • Tongs

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-3-in. pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp. powdered mustard
  • 2 tsp. tarragon
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • Some kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbl. cornstarch
  • Peanut oil

Place chicken pieces in the large ziplock bag. In a small bowl, stir together mustard powder, tarragon, salt, ground pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne powder, and paprika. Put in ziplock bag with chicken, seal and shake to coat completely. Next, pour in 1 cup buttermilk and cover to coat chicken. Marinate in the fridge 4-12 hours.

Bring out the chicken bag about 1 hour before you start to cook. *Sidenote: letting your chicken and buttermilk come to rm. temp. before frying cooks the chicken more evenly and more quickly.

Place a cooling rack over a large rimmed baking sheet or over wax paper/tin foil.

In a medium shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and water. In another large, shallow bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, and a bit of kosher salt. Heat the peanut oil (use enough to be roughly 3/4-inch deep) in the cast iron skillet. Attach your oil thermometer to the side, making sure the tip is immersed but not touching the bottom of the skillet. Let the oil heat to 300-350 on medium-high heat.

Dip the chicken from the bag into the egg mix, shake gently, then dredge in the flour mix and shake off the excess. Set aside until all are covered. When all are coated, begin adding the chicken pieces, adding only enough to the skillet so that none overlap or are squished together. *Sidenote: if you overcrowd  your skillet, the coatings from different pieces will stick together.

Heat for 2 min per side or until a dark, crispy gold color. Turn with tongs and cook another 2 min. Remove from the skillet and place on the cooling rack, letting excess oil drip off. Continue cooking chicken in batches. *You don’t have to put the chicken in the oven to keep warm while waiting for your other chicken to fry. Since it’s popcorn chicken the pieces cook fast and the chicken is so hot after being fried it takes a long time to cool down.

Meris’s “It’s-Healthy-Because-It’s-Baked” Potato Skin Poppers (Makes roughly 50; halve the recipe for 25)

Equipment:

  • Baking sheet

Ingredients:

  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 3/4 cup turkey bacon, or regular bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 1/2-2 cups hash browns (I used the square chunky kind)
  • 1 cup sour cream (fat free works great)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 2 tsp. onion powder or some diced scallions
  • Some seasoned salt and ground black pepper
  • Small dish of water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with Pam.

Cook the hash browns according to the package.

Mix the hash browns, cheese, sour cream, bacon, onion, pepper, and seasoned salt in a medium bowl. Take a large rounded tsp. of mix and place in the middle of the wonton wrapper. Fold wrapper according to instructions (see photos), making sure to wet the edges by dipping your finger in the bowl of water and slightly tracing the edges.

Wrap the two ends

Then the other two

Place on the greased baking sheet, seam-side-down. Spray the wontons with more Pam. Bake for 20 min. or until the wontons are a dark golden color.

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