Wednesday is the worst day of any playoff week. Pure excitement propels you through Monday. Tuesday, you settle down a bit and read every article about each team on the internet, including Prodigy and iVillage, but not the Buenes Aires Times because for some reason their American sports articles are behind a pay wall. Thursday means the weekend is almost here and odds are some second year lineman has said something foolish by now for entertainment. You float through Friday knowing each minute brings you closer to kickoff. Plans are finalized, beer and soda is procured, lucky socks cleaned. (Unless part of their luck is always being dirty, in which case you fumigate your lucky socks.)
Wednesday though? Drudgery. You’ve tapped out on all the adrenaline from Sunday. Injury reports about players you already knew were out. The NFL Network’s “Sound FX” is just Rex Ryan swearing and “Oooo, doggie!” for 30 minutes.
Doesn’t mean playoff Wednesday can’t be amusing. Me? I wrote a little poem for a Seattle fan who said his love for the Seahawks would never be matched by a Steelers fan. (Link NSFW.)
In the darkest of hearts, grows a flower.
Thin yet hearty, delicate but plentiful,
Lush where the land is rocky.
Pink cheeked Hasselbeck,
Pink leafed Coast Rhodendron.
Truest tests and truest love
Reveal their strength.
Wind from the sea,
Wind from the pass rush,
Both will bend, blossoms blowing.
Ground rumbling underneath my feet.
Pick them both and offer them up to sun,
Only to watch them die.
So that was kind of fun, but really, I’m ready for playoff Thursday to hurry up and get here.
Spicy Peanut Butter Honey Chicken Tenders
This recipe was inspired by the good people at the Peanut Butter Company Sandwich Shop in New York City. They also sell their own line of products, for which they posted a recipe using their “Bees Knees” honey variety of peanut butter. Unfortunately, the weekend I planned on making this dish, I could not find their peanut butter at any of the stores listed in their directory here in LA. (Which is a pity, because it is supposedly carried at the Gelson’s and the Ralph’s right by my place.) Since I had already bought the buttermilk and the chicken and already had peanut butter and honey at home, I thought I’d go ahead and make my own version. If you happen to near a store that sells this brand and you make this chicken, please let me know how it turns out. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled in case Bees Knees reappears on the shelves here in Southern California.
A few changes to their recipe: I used the spice mixture I tried earlier this year for the steak fingers since we tend to like things a little hot around here, and upped the cinnamon, all spice and cayenne. Used boneless chicken instead of bone-in, as it’s easier for a platter and then you don’t have guests in front of your TV struggling with bones. (Although if I was going to make a cold chicken and wanted it bone-in for a tailgate, this recipe would be it.)
And generally when you make this type of fry batter it is best to use an egg to help with the binding process, but I omitted it in the recipe without any loss of consistency or breading during cooking. So if you want to toss a raw beaten egg into the batter, that’s up to you and your cooking habits and preferences.
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay (optional)
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-2 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, breast and thighs, trimmed into 2-3 inch pieces
2-3 cups flour
Herb, spice and salt mixture (Use a small dash of all the dry ingredients used in the buttermilk marinade to carry the flavors forward.)*
3-4 cups of canola or vegetable oil for frying
In large bowl, combine the seasonings, buttermilk, peanut butter and honey.
Mix together until smooth. Give your batter a quick taste test now, because once you fill the bowl with raw chicken, it’s best not to taste it. So if you’re going to want to adjust any of the seasonings, now is the time.
See? Now it’s not safe for tasting. Make sure the chicken is completely coated by giving it a good, firm stir. Feeling funky, go ahead and cabbage patch over the bowl holding the spoon. That should work.
(Unless I’ve been cabbage-patching the wrong way all these years, which, I probably have.)
Marinate the chicken for at least two hours. I’ve found that making a batch up in the morning to cook for the afternoon games is perfect timing.
In the container on the right? Some nice looking ranch dressing we made since we already had the buttermilk for the chicken. Much better tasting than stuff in the bottle, plus we used up an ingredient that we don’t always keep on hand.
Once you’re ready to start frying, preheat the oven to about 225º-250º and line a baking sheet with paper towels. As you fry each batch, you will then be able to keep the chicken warm in the oven once it’s done. It also gives your breading a nice, deeper color.
Heat either a deep fryer or a heavy pan with oil to 350º. A pinch of flour should sizzle and turn brown when thrown into the oil at this temperature.
Remove chicken from marinade and allow excess liquid to drip off then dredge in the seasoned flour mixture.*
Working in small batches, fry four or five chicken tenders until golden brown. Don’t crowd the pan, as the oil temperature will drop too far, the meat won’t cook as fast, and you’ll be stuck with soggy, greasy chicken.
About three or four minutes on each side. You’ll know when they’re done.
Serve with sriracha sauce for people who like it even spicier, ranch dressing for people who need a cool down and honey for those who like it even sweeter. Me? I love to mix sriracha with honey.
The chicken comes out spicy and nutty, with just a hint of sweet so as not to overwhelm the palate. It’s easy to get everything ready before the game and fry at halftime, or of you like, cook the day before and gently reheat in a warm 300º oven, which works very well if you use larger pieces of chicken or bone-in.
Last time I made this for football, the Steelers played the Ravens. It ended with this:
Which ended up as one of the photos on our Christmas card.
*For some reason, I forgot to include these steps in the original posting. Sorry! I guess the directions from the steak fingers and fried pickles were still fresh in my mind and I didn’t think to include them here.