Fried Chicken Tacos

This past weekend, I had a new metal roof put on my mobile home, plus a new roof put on my front porch - I'm feeling pretty good about myself and much, much drier. But I'm pretty sure what excited me most was having folks to cook for. I had a great excuse - it would be morally reprehensible of me to make three grown men work on my house without making sure they were properly fed.

Course they all slipped into a bit of a food coma after lunch ...

At least my conscience was clear - and so were the dinner plates. We did stewed peppers and brat hogies on Saturday, and on Sunday, I thought I'd try to recreate a food-truck taco I'd watched on Eat Street a few weeks ago.

I'm sorry to say I did not catch the name of the food truck, so I can't give them full credit. This is my recreation, but the idea came from them. It's what I love about tacos - pretty much anything, as long as the components marry well, balance each other out, and are comprised of fresh ingredients works well snuggled inside a corn tortilla.

A fried chicken taco? Yes, of course. Someone should have thought of this sooner.

I marinated chicken tenderloins overnight in buttermilk and Thai hot chile paste (because it's what I had handy - you could use Frank's RedHot and I wouldn't mind). Then I dredged each piece in seasoned flour (from Tyler Florence's new cookbook which you can read about here) and fried it up in the deep fryer. The tenderloins were already perfectly portioned and the buttermilk brine simply improved upon the texture of the meat, keeping it moist, tenderizing it a bit, and giving it that lovely sour tang. Frying was quick and easy.

Shredded red cabbage and thinly sliced radish provided some fresh crunch, and I dabbed a bit of Adobo Ranch sauce on the chicken before sprinkling it with some Cotija cheese. A cold beer or two and you're in business, mister.

Fried Chicken Tacos

Feeds four super-hungry adults

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs chicken breast tenderloins
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot sauce (your preference)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/8 cup freshly ground pepper
  • red and/or green cabbage, finely sliced
  • 8-10 radishes, thinly sliced on mandeline or finely diced
  • Cotija cheese
  • corn tortillas

Adobo Ranch Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 chipotle chiles, finely chopped + 1 tablespoon adobo sauce

Inspect your tenderloins - if they're a bit thick in places, pound them out gently so they're of even thickness throughout. Pour buttermilk and hot sauce in a resealable bag and add chicken. Place the bag in a dish and refrigerate overnight.

Heat enough oil in a dutch oven to reach at least 3-inches (alternatively, use a deep fryer if you have one handy). Heat the oil to 365-degrees. Mix the flours and seasonings together in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. 

Remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk and drop them into your seasoned flour mixture. Make sure to coat them well with the flour so you get a nice, crusty coating. Fry the chicken in batches for 4-6 minutes until they are golden brown. Drain the cooked chicken on a paper-towel lined plate and keep warm in the oven if you'd like.

To assemble

I like to "lightly toast" my corn tortillas on a cast-iron griddle, but you can also wrap them in a damp towel and heat them through quickly in the microwave. I like the look of a grilled tortilla, and I also enjoy the additional smokiness that comes from heating them through on a grille. It marries nicely with the smokiness of the chipotle chiles in the sauce.

I layer my fried chicken tacos as follows, but there's no right way to do it: A little bit of fresh cabbage, a piece (or two!) of fried chicken, a drizzle of Adobo Ranch sauce, a few strategically placed slices of fresh radish and a sprinkling of cotija cheese.