Don’t let these innocent-looking Spicy Hot Cajun Chicken Tenders fool ya. They have a surprisingly good kick to them!! You see, I’ve been on a quest lately, to completely eliminate any cravings, (well, mostly my hubby’s), for any fast food favorites. Neither one of us are actually big on any drive-thru or restaurant junk that’s not homemade. Me, especially. But everyone has their evils that they love. One of my hubby’s, though, is any kind of fried chicken. And I confess, that I’ve never been a big fan of it myself… as an adult. I know, I’m probably one of the very few that isn’t, but me and fried chicken, especially today’s fast food fried chicken, aren’t the best of friends. I loved both of my Grandma’s fried chicken, KFC back in the mid and late 60’s when I was a kid (while they actually still made it good!), and my own fried chicken. But I’ve had, uhm, more than my fair share of some BAD fried chicken so many times, that it really made me hate it. “There’s a story here….” *Sorry!! Need to vent just this once. Sorry, but I really do. My ex-MIL’s was the absolute WORST. OMG…horrific!! She was the epitome of a hateful mother-in-law towards someone who could’ve just been “liked” that was her son’s wife. She does the unthinkable when frying chicken. Completely overcrowds the pan, uses a FORK, (stabbing the pieces letting all of the wonderful chicken juices run out, and the oil fill in) when turning…stabbing and turning and stabbing and turning…a HUGE no-no to anyone who knows how to cook fried chicken! Always, always, always use tongs or skimmers to turn and remove from the pan!
I spared her feelings for YEARS about how bad her chicken was by just politely saying that, “I just didn’t care for fried chicken”. I never ever told her that it was HER fried chicken that I didn’t like. She was so nasty mean to me, unspeakably, that the first time she heard me simply say that “I didn’t very much care for fried chicken”, she decided that from that day on, she’d make her flavorless, greasy fried chicken Every. Single. Sunday. Just to spite me and make sure that I felt unliked by her and unwelcome in her home. We HAD to be there every single Sunday, and be there by 10am for “dinner”. (That was demanded just so that her husband could eat, leave, and belly-up to the local bar downtown by noon.) So yea, “fried chicken” left a VERY bad taste in my mouth…for almost 23 years. Anyways, thanks for listening.
“And now back to our regularly scheduled program”….lol, and what really matters. 😉 Whew. So, over the past 12 years, with my second hubby, and love of my life who would NEVER let anyone treat me badly, not even family, I’ve been rediscovering fried chicken and having fun playing with lots of different fried chicken concoctions. And these Spicy Cajun Chicken Tenders knocked us naked!
Anyways….I get so tired and disappointed with the latest restaurant (or whoever), claiming to have “hot ‘n spicy” chicken and…sorry…but if you don’t need a glass of milk nearby to chase it down, it ain’t HOT nor “spicy” by ANY means. I didn’t need a milk chaser, but the poor hubs (who is still getting used to anything spicy and hot), did in fact drink a small glass of milk afterwards. And you know, that’s what “hot ‘n spicy” is all about!!! He did say that they were “Excellent!”, and even wanted more after they were gone! And coming from someone who’s picky about fried chicken, and not a big fan of anything hot, I’ll take that as a huge compliment!
I added a full tablespoon of cayenne to the batter mixture, and it was darn near just as spicy delicious as the heat you’d expect when eating buffalo wings! Hot, but go-back-for-more good! And no sweet, gummy, sticky sauce all over your face, hands, in your hair, and under your fingernails, either! (I hate that about buffalo wings!) You can just pick these up, no mess, and they’re boneless to boot! All the more fun to eat!
I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and BOY were they ever juicy and tender inside, and crispy-crunchy on the outside. Not soggy at all! You can choose to use chicken breasts if you prefer. The thighs have more flavor than white meat, though, and they’re much more juicy and tender, but you might want to do a little bit of each to make everyone happy! Some people just prefer the white meat no matter how hard you try to convince them.
My hubby is a straight-up, no sauce, give it to him straight kind of chicken man. But I’m a dipper, myself! So I whipped up a Mardi Gras-Style Mustard Dipping Sauce (pictured below), and oh man was it good! The hubs, shocker, who normally hates to dip, actually enjoyed his with some regular barbecue sauce. I’m turning him into a dipper! So, you can enjoy these babies as is, or make any type of sauce that you like to dunk ‘n dip spicy hot chicken in! A cool-your-tongue suggestion for those who don’t want to double-down on the heat, no offense, would be my Homemade Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing, Alabama White Barbecue Sauce or Creamy Honey Mustard, Mustard Cheese Sauce, or even plain ole sour cream!
But if you’re like me, and crave heat – Go HOT or go home! – these are for you!!! They aren’t for wussy palates…these are for those who live on the edge and expect “hot ‘n spicy” to be just that, and not a disappointment.
These tenders wake you up and remind you that you’re alive! Enjoy everything life has to offer, as we’re only on this big blue ball that’s flying and spinning through space for a blink of an eye! We have one life, and one life only to live. So LIVE it!! Hope you enjoy 😀
- Chicken and Overnight Marinade:
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 cup buttermilk (*see note on how to make it homemade if needed)
- 1 Tbl. hot sauce such as Louisiana or Frank's
- 1 Tbl. cayenne powder
- 1 tsp. cajun seasoning such as Slap Ya Mama
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. regular pepper
- Flour Mixture:
- ¾ cup self-rising flour
- ¼ cup* finely crushed Special K cereal, can sub corn flakes or rice crispies (*measure after crushing)
- 1 Tbl. cornstarch
- 1 Tbl. cayenne powder
- 2 tsp. regular table salt
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 2 tsp. cajun seasoning such as Slap Ya Mama
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground white pepper
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. italian seasoning
- ½ tsp. dried dill weed
- ½ tsp. sugar
- ½ tsp. celery seeds
- 2 eggs beaten with ½ cup of the chicken marinade
- (*6 cups vegetable oil for frying)
- In large bowl, add Marinade ingredients and whisk to mix. Add chicken pieces, press, submerging until covered. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- In a large bowl (*or doubled brown paper lunch sacks), whisk well the Flour Mixture ingredients to evenly mix, (* or twist top of bags closed and shake to mix).
- In pie dish, whisk eggs well. Whisk in ½ cup of the marinade that the chicken is in. Remove each piece of chicken from bowl, let excess marinade drip off, shaking a little, drop into flour mixture. Dredge both sides in bowl or shake well in bags to coat, shake off excess, dip into egg/marinade mixture, coating both sides, let excess drip off, then coat again in the flour mixture. Place onto a rack over a baking sheet, and refrigerate, uncovered for 20 minutes to set.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep fryer or in a large deep frying pan until the oil is very hot and shimmering, but not smoking. Place the chicken pieces in the hot oil, several pieces at a time, leaving enough space in-between pieces so that they are not crowded. This will allow the chicken tenders to properly cook and brown evenly.
- Continue to cook over medium heat or slightly lower, turning once or twice, until all sides are golden brown and the meat is thoroughly cooked. (*3 - 4 minutes per side). Remove pieces as you go along and place onto a paper towel-lined (several layers thick) cooling rack placed over a baking sheet to absorb any excess grease, and cool enough to eat. They will stay hot for quite some time, so there's really no need to keep them warm in the oven. I did mine in 4 batches, and even the first ones cooked were still hot.
Add 1 Tbl. vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup. Fill the rest of the way with milk. Set aside for at least 5 minutes. Gently stir. Then proceed to use. (*I made my own and used apple cider vinegar).
**Oops! No self-rising flour, either? That's ok, too! For 1 cup of self-rising flour just use 1 cup regular flour and add 1 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. regular salt.