As an American living in Canada, I'm often asked questions about whether or not I miss America. This especially happens when it's the middle of winter and people discover that I left Florida to come here (then they think I'm crazy). The answer is yes, there are things I miss about America. Funny enough, however, there are only a few things, and they are all food. Case in point: the story of how I introduced my son to knockoff Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets.
This whole recipe came to be because of a grocery store throwdown. You see, my son (who has food allergies) was upset because I wouldn’t buy the one brand of flavourless frozen slabs of “chicken fingers” that is safe for him to eat. I get that they’re “all natural,” with clearly readable ingredients, and I appreciate that, but dang, y’all. You could at least season them so they don't taste like the box... especially when you have the gumption to actually charge $1 per frozen chicken finger.
Anyway, I told my son I would make him some. My son has always been one of the first people out there to tell me that he thinks I’m an amazing superwoman who can make anything. I don’t know whether he truly in doubt or was just laying on the cussedness cause I told him no, but he insisted that I couldn’t make chicken fingers and actually bet his entire piggy bank against me.
Honey, mommy grew up in the Southern U.S. AMERIKUH. Knowing how to make fried chicken, and all its subsidiaries like chicken fingers, is practically the law. In other words…
This is where I now blow your minds by divulging the super secret (okay not so secret) ingredient that makes Chick-Fil-A such an addictive, delicious omgwtfbbq who would have thought such a crazy thing is possible and why don't we have it in Canada yet thing. Wait. Hold up. First you gotta summon the man to do this.
Yes. The secret ingredient is pickles. Or more specifically: pickle brine. That thing you pour down the drain after you take the pickles out.
Now before you flake out and write me a bunch of hate mail like "EWWWW" I am telling you. THIS IS A THING. A delicious, delicious thing. And given that I know how you feel about dill pickle chips and brined pork back bacon (that delicious thing that becomes “peameal” here and Canadian bacon to everyone else), I really think you should hop on this train. I’m a Southern Belle in Canada. You can trust me on matters of food.
Now here is where you ask the shocked question: WON'T IT TASTE LIKE PICKLES?!
No. The brine makes the chicken tender, moist, and delicious, seasoned with the barest hint of mustard and dill. Behold, a way to make fried chicken in all its forms. Heck, you might even want to brine your chicken before roasting, too. Feel free to use this on chicken cutlets to make sandwiches, homemade chicken fingers, and popcorn chicken (as I did).
My kid conceded that maybe mommy knew what she was doing with fried chicken, by the way.
1 cup store bought pickle brine (or 1 cup homemade pickle brine)
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into nuggets or strips
2 cups oil suitable for frying (I like to use light olive or canola, however the official fry oil of choice at Chick-Fil-A is refined peanut oil)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
4 tsp icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp table salt
1 tbsp milk
Combine the chicken and brine in a dish or shallow pan, cover, and marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 24.
When ready to fry the chicken, discard the brine, and combine the egg and milk in a small bowl.
Combine the rest of the dry ingredients in another bowl with tall sides. Dip the chicken in the egg/milk mixture before coating with the combined flour and seasonings.
Heat the cooking oil in a tall-sided pan or pot over medium-high heat. Oil is hot enough when a piece of chicken dropped into it simmers.
Fry the chicken pieces a handful at a time, or up to two cutlets at a time, until lightly golden on both sides and cooked through (about 3-4 minutes). Remove to a paper towel to drain.
If a dark golden brown colour is desired, fry the pieces a second time after a brief rest for about 1 minute.
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