Nothing says Big Love like homemade chicken strips

When The Sopranos decided to go off the air they may as well have removed our hearts and eaten them with a side of marinara and noodles. Nothing, ever in our livelong days would be able to replace it. We cried and gnashed our teeth.

Some other trollops have come to town and tried to replace the Sopranos, and LOST has done a pretty good job, I will say. She’s a tasty little vixen. But she doesn’t come around on Sunday night, which is our favorite night of the week. On Sundays these days, since True Blood isn’t on, we only have Big Love. And thankfully, this season of Big Love has turned up the juice so high I don’t even recognize our sweet little Mormon friends anymore. Big Love is the new Sopranos, complete with gratuitous bloodshed and cleavage shots.

However, Mr. Meat and Potatoes sometimes works on Sundays and I’m never sure what time he’ll be home, if it will be in time for dinner and television or not, and living with that kind of uncertainty, for the obsessive control freaks of the world, is like living with someone who chews ice on a nightly basis within earshot. Oh wait. I live with both.

So last night I got a text from Mr. Meat and Potatoes at around 6:00 suggesting he thought he might be home by 8:00, because he knows that had he arrived at 8:00 and not warned me that he’d be home in time for dinner, the shrapnel from my brain exploding would have gotten all over his work shirt, and, well, MESS. Still, I couldn’t be sure if it would be 8:00 SHARP or maybe 8:15 and how the heck was I supposed to have a hot meal on the table with this kind of wishy-washy scheduling? I ask you. HOW?

I’ll tell you how. Enter the chicken strip.

I had a bag of frozen chicken tenders in the freezer and I knew how to use them. These babies are fast to thaw, quick and easy to cook, and are so good, you’ll want to go home and meet their mamas. I could have them prepped and ready, and then start the frying the second Mr. Meat and Potatoes walked in the door so they’d be hot and on his plate just minutes later. Thus was born the perfect short-order meal. I made it with rustic mashed potatoes, semi-homemade ranch dressing, and corn. Very down-home. Very bad for us. Very Sunday night at the Stuke household.

Quick and Dirty Chicken Strips

10-12 chicken breast tenders, thawed
2 C flour
2 T powdered sugar
3 T Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 T black pepper
2 C buttermilk
½ C vegetable oil
¾ C shortening

Step 1) Start soaking the strips in the buttermilk. I only did it for fifteen minutes.

Step 2) Combine the flour, powdered sugar, seasoned salt, and pepper in a bowl. Then drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of the buttermilk (I had to “make” buttermilk out of milk and lemon juice – but it works just fine) and work it in with a fork. The liquid should help the flour make some small clumps. These clumps are later going to equal big flavor. Don’t skip that step!

Step 3) Heat the oil/shortening combination over medium high heat in your largest skillet until it gets to almost the smoking point.

Step 4) Dredge the strips in the flour mixture. Get them REALLY super-coated. You want lots of crispy goodness, clumps and all, on the outside of your strips.

Step 5) Fry them on each side until golden brown. This should take about 5 minutes per side, but watch carefully as it varies depending on how hot your oil is.

Of course you will want something to dip these in. Honey mustard is a crowd favorite, but last night I went with ranch. I just used half a packet of dry ranch mix, ½ C sour cream, 3 T milk, and 2 T mayo. So good. Your mouth will never forgive you if you go back to the squeeze bottle stuff.

I promise you, these are quick and fool-proof, and if you aren’t married but would like to be, these are going to be a step in the right direction. Nevermind the Crisco. It’s worth it.

This is a meal that kids and grownups alike will love, and you can feel better about these than the processed, frozen ones we usually get at the fast food joint or from the grocery store freezer. It’s hardly worth the trip to Mickey D’s when you can have the real thing on the table so quickly and painlessly. It’s also nice because if you keep a bag of those tenders in your freezer, you can pull out just as many as you need at any given moment, and leave the rest in there for another meal, another day.

Rustic Mashed Potatoes

10-12 red potatoes, skin on
1 stick butter (yes, a whole stick)
2 T milk
2 cloves roasted garlic, or just regular garlic if you don’t have time to roast it
Salt and pepper

Step 1) Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you wait for the boil, cut the potatoes into uniform pieces. Most of mine were in 6th’s, as the potatoes were fairly large for the red variety. Don’t peel them!

Step 2) Toss them into the boiling water (careful!) and cook until fork tender all the way through. Check the centers!

Step 3) Drain them well. Get as much moisture off of them as you can. Sometimes I even blot them with paper towels.

Step 4) Return them to your original pot and put it back on the stove over the still-warm burner. You could even turn the burner on low. You want to let any steam left in the potatoes release, and the heat helps.

Step 5) Toss in the stick of butter and a little milk. Please do not overdo it on the milk. That is how you get gummy, glue-y potatoes instead of fluffy, buttery delights.

Step 6) Add the garlic, and PLENTY of salt (I prefer kosher) and pepper.

Step 7) Mash with a potato masher by hand. This will create the desired effect: just a little lumpy, with the skins incorporated but not mutilated.

These babies don’t need a thing. No extra butter, no gravy, no nuthin’. They’re perfect just the way they are. Like me. Not.

Mr. Meat and Potatoes was quite happy with his Sunday night feast, simple fare as it was. I like to think it’s something that Barb, Super-Mom from Big Love, would feed her family. And this one is so easy, she doesn’t even need the help of her sister-wives.


pmccarthy 12 years, 8 months ago

Sounds like Sunday dinner - 2010 style. How did my grandma do it? Thanks for the hints on the mashed potatoes. I just made a pot of glue the other night - ugh! It was so bad, my boys told me to just buy a box of instant potatoes next time - double ugh!

Thanks Megan! Love your articles!!

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