Alright, I'll admit it, tacos are already an excuse to go crazy. I've seen lamb, pulled pork, sashimi grade fish, steak, even ox tongue in tacos, but I've never really done them myself. But I've always wanted to have fun making some sort of over-the-top taco creation. I just didn't realize I was going to give myself the opportunity so randomly.
What began as an on-the-spot pick-up of frozen haddock at the grocery store somehow ended up as a foray into the decadent world of fried chicken. I'll explain: Kari and I have been on "fresh and light" kick for dinners lately and I bought the fish with the goal of making a light fish taco loaded with veggies. But then Thursday, April 3 happened. As mentioned in a recent post, I made some tasties for the "Capital SuccessFest" to help Ottawa's own Lefty McRighty with his legal woes against Voldemort. Well, attendance led to imbibance which led to hungoverness. And from said hungoverness came a powerful, POWERFUL craving for fried chicken, so fish tacos suddenly got conceptually usurped by Fried Chicken Tacos. Now, it took an extra day to implement, but I'd planted the seed and there was no way Kari was going to let me off the hook without deep fried goodness. So, Fried Chicken Tacos it was! I will declare that we showed a modicum of restraint in that we stuck with the "lots of veggies" idea by making a slaw, a variation of a pico de gallo, and refried beans.
Now, I've never made fried chicken before, generally avoiding deep frying as a "go-to" form of cooking, but it really isn't that hard (messy, yes, but not difficult); and there are few things in this world as delicious as fried chicken. I've watched enough food pr0n TV and read enough cookbooks to have learned a few tips on how to pull it off and there's always the Internet for tips.
Additionally, the sides/toppings (slaw, pico and beans) were all fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. So while this might look like a recipe concocted by a madman, and maybe it is, since I've never heard of putting fried chicken on a taco (although it's probably totally a thing in Mexico), it wasn't actually that hard to do.
So let's do this thang!
Fried Chicken Taco
There's all kinds of fun things going on here, with lots of crunchy elements from both the veggies and the chicken. Let's start with the main building block of the dish, the chicken:
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch, 3-inch long strips
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup taco sauce (such as Valentina Salsa Picante)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp chili powder
- Canola oil for frying
- In a large non-reactive bowl, mix buttermilk and taco sauce together.
- Place pieces of chicken in milk mixture and let sit for an hour or so.
- Fill a large, deep pan with about an inch-deep layer of oil. Heat on medium-high heat until ready to fry chicken (to test if oil is hot enough, let a drop of water fall into the oil; if it sizzles, it's ready to use)
- While oil is heating, mix flour and chili powder in a bowl or high-edged plate or some other container that won't make a mess as you hand-coat your chicken!
- To coat chicken, do the following for each piece: let excess liquid drip off, coat in flour mixture, shake off excess flour, soak in milk mixture again, let excess liquid drip off, coat in flour a second time and shake off excess. You *could* just coat the chicken once, but I find it way crunchier with two coats.
- Fry the chicken in batches. Don't crowd the pan, and cook until coating is golden and crispy, and chicken floats.
- Remove chicken from oil using a slotted spoon and dry on paper towels to remove all excess oil. You want your chicken crispy, not oily. Set aside in oven at 200 degrees to keep warm.
|Isn't it a gorgeous sight?|
Now we build up our supporting cast with a pair of tasty veggie toppings. First, the Pico de Gallo:
Pico de Gallo
This is your standard Pico de Gallo with a little bit of cucumber added in for extra flavour and freshness.
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
- 1 small cucumber, finely diced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
- juice of 1/4 lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mix ingredients well and chill for an hour.
|Healthy component #1|
Moving along, now we have the Southwestern Slaw. Originally intended to be a side
Southwestern Slaw (recipe taken from Allrecipes.com) (I omitted the onion since there was already onion in the pico de gallo and beans)
- 3 cups cabbage, shredded (we used napa cabbage, but any will do)
- 1 carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 red pepper, seeded and julienned
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup canola
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mix all veggies in a large bowl.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients until sugar is dissolved
- Mix dressing with vegetables and set aside for at least an hour to let flavours blend.
|Healthy component #2|
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 796 ml/28 oz. can black beans
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup beer (optional)
- juice of 1/4 lime
- Heat olive oil on medium-high heat and sauté garlic and onion for 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in black beans and stock and reduce heat to medium. Keep stirring and mash the beans with the flat of the spoon. You don't want to turn this into a smooth purée, but rather a more "rustic" texture.
- As the beans cook and absorb the stock, they can sometimes dry out a little. The beer is there in case that happens; stir it in to re-moisten your beans. It also makes it tastier!
- Once beans have cooked to your taste, stir in lime juice and remove from heat.
|Healthy component #3 (well, maybe not with the beer)|
To put it together, spread a schmear of refried beans on a flour tortilla (preferably heated for 5 minutes at a low temperature - 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit - but I went with cold because I always forget my tortillas and they become Mexican crackers), then add your fried chicken (1 or 2 pieces depending on tortilla size and appetite), then top with pico, slaw and, if you want, some kind of hot sauce or salsa. I like the Valentina Salsa Picante mentioned above, which is pretty much a straight-up taco sauce. If you're a big cilantro fan, you can always add a couple of sprigs to the taco, but there's already some in the slaw and the pico, so keep that in mind.
Grab taco with hands and snarf!
|So much good!|
So, after all that, how'd it turn out? Well, as one might expect, the star of the taco was indeed the fried chicken; I could have eaten the taco with just the chicken and taco sauce and been a happy camper. As I suspected, double-coating it made it super crunchy while keeping the chicken nice and moist, with the buttermilk/taco sauce combo providing a nice tangy quality.
That being said, having all those veggies did help the experience as I could feel my arteries NOT hardening after every bite... Nothing amongst the three of them really stood up and said WOW! to me, but they played their roles well: the pico giving a fresh pop, the slaw adding some acidity and crunch and the refried beans rounding out the taco with a rich earthiness.
So really, I think I've discovered an important lesson: fried chicken, whether it be served at home or in a local eatery, is pretty much as crazily delicious a food as there can be. But also likely to cut short your lifespan, so be responsible! Only YOU can prevent a life filled with fried chicken! (now, the quality of said fried-chicken-free life might be up for debate...)