It's Friday people!  The weekend has finally arrived…. and I have to work.  Well, today and tomorrow, anyway.  And then Sunday is a free day!  We're planning on going to Holiday World with a couple friends so it should be a fun day!  I'm most looking forward to the water park, of course!

Anyway, I think fried food gets a bad rap.  In moderation, I don't find any problem with it.  It's when it become a DAILY thing that people start running in to trouble.  And in honor of the Kentucky State Fair starting up yesterday (aren't state fairs ALL about fried food?!), I decided to whip up some fried goodness of my own.

The best thing about this?  You can buy a bulk pack of chicken tenders, eat the ones you want, and any leftovers can be sealed up and placed in the freezer.  Just pop 'em in the oven when you want to have them again (just like those expensive bags of chicken tenders you buy in the frozen section!)

Feel free to play with the seasoned flour as you see fit – make it more or less spicy, leave out a few spices – whatever you feel like doing!

Ingredients:

about 20 chicken tenders/tenderloins
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons hot paprika
2 tablespoons garlic salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup barbecue sauce (homemade or store-bought is fine)
1 tablespoon chipotle peppers, with adobo sauce, mashed
2 tablespoons honey
 vegetable oil, for frying

You can choose to flatten the chicken tenders for a more even cook, or you can keep them as is.  I didn't want to go through all the fuss – they were all pretty much the same size anyway (and they look more natural minus the flattening).

Heat a large heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven under high heat.  Add enough vegetable oil to come up about 2 inches (or at least enough to have your tenderloins submerged – another reason to flatten the tenderloins if you need to).  If you have a deep fryer – more power to ya! – just turn the sucker on and get that oil heating up (to at least 325F).

Set up a standard breading station – one pan/bowl for the flour mixture, one for the eggwash, and one for the breadcrumbs. 

In one pan, combine the flour, chili powder, paprika, garlic salt, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, oregano, and kosher salt.  This is obviously your flour mixture bowl. 

In another pan, make your egg wash with the eggs and milk.  Whisk until combined.

And lastly, place your breadcrumbs in the last pan.

In batches (depending on how big your pans are), dip your tenderloins first in the flour mixture, then in the egg wash, and then coat with breadcrumbs.  Place finished breaded tenderloins on a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Continue until all tenderloins are breaded.

When your oil is ready,working in batches (I did 5 at a time), deep fry the tenderloins until golden brown and cooked throughout, about 3-4 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed.

While your tenderloins are cooking, you can mix up your barbecue sauce.  In a small saucepan, combine the prepared or store-bought barbecue sauce, chipotle pepper, and honey.  Place under medium heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to develop the flavor.  You can either choose to puree the whole mixture (so the random bits of chipotle pepper are dispersed throughout, or if you don't want too much heat, you can choose to strain the mixture to remove the chipotle pepper).

Serve with dipping sauce and go at it!

This makes plenty for a small get-together, or enough to save for lunches/quick dinners throughout the busy week!  I'm all about planning ahead!

What's your favorite sauce to serve with chicken tenders?

Hope you all have a great weekend!