Yes, you read the title correctly: Chick-Fil-A’s chicken breast tenders AND McDonald’s french fries. I can’t take the credit for these two recipes, though, because I got them from elsewhere (keep reading). The reason I threw these two together for the same post is because they’re both fried – I figure that if I’m going to the trouble of frying…taking up all of that space on the stove, in the oven and on what little counter space I have – not to mention the ungodly mess – then I (and you) might as well make the most of it.
Couple of things…. First of all, the tenders recipe is actually a nugget recipe; I was just too…um…energetically challenged (read: lazy) to cut the raw chicken, which, of course, needs to be turned throughout the process of frying…which, of course, is very time consuming. Now, if I were only making a small batch, then I might have done the nuggets, but my kids go gaga over chicken, so I knew I’d need a lot of it to feed the hungry masses. I’ve made these tenders twice, doubling the recipe each time; I used about four pounds of raw tenders both times, which would make a helluva lot of nuggets.
Second, both recipes call for frying with peanut oil. Although I have peanut oil, it’s older than dirt, so I went with another healthy oil. No, not olive oil (I like olive oil, but it has a very distinct flavor that, in my opinion, can at times be overpowering). As it happened, I had just ordered three bottles of sunflower oil at a really good price from Amazon (inserting gratuitous Amazon Associate hyperlink that might yield me a few pennies toward the expense of this blog: http://www.amazon.com/Hain-Pure-Foods-Sunflower-32-Ounce/dp/B005KRXJOW?&linkCode=wss&tag=creati05c-20), so I used that for frying both recipes.
I used the Chick-Fil-A recipe from this page: http://thesistersdish.blogspot.com/2012/04/chick-fil-bites.html. The first time I made this, I didn’t have any pickles, so I marinated the tenders in “Bettermilk” and egg. The second time, I made it with the pickle juice that’s called-for in the recipe. The difference between the two batches was subtle, and I can’t really put my finger on exactly what it was…the flavor of the chicken, maybe? Anyway, the writer commented that she was going to have to keep buying jars of pickles for the juice so’s she can keep making these, but it occurred to me – she could just make her own pickle juice, and so can you; look at this Ball Kosher Dill Flex Batch Pickle Mix (I think you just add vinegar and boil, so it’s pretty simple and you won’t waste or dehydrate a whole lot of pickles). Just a thought, in case you’re not a big pickle eater but want to make these over and over again.
I’m going to be brutally honest here, okay? These don’t taste like Chick-Fil-A anything to me. Sorry, but they just don’t. I mean, they were very good, the kids loved them, and overall, they were a big hit, but…they’re just not Chick-Fil-A, and I think that has something to do with the seasoning. My kids often say that the CFA nuggets and tenders are a little on the, “spicy” side, and this recipe just isn’t highly seasoned at all. The texture was there, but the taste wasn’t.
Now, for the BIG surprise – the recipe for McDonald’s french fries: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/05/perfect-french-fries-recipe.html. The reason I called this a big surprise is because I was really just looking for an easy way to make my own french fries. I had potatoes since I’d just been grocery shopping, and I figured that an, “easy” fry recipe would go perfectly with the tenders. I browsed through a few “oven fried” potatoes recipes, but then stumbled across this gem. I wouldn’t call it EASY. I wouldn’t call it QUICK. But I’d definitely call it GOOD!
This fella went through A LOT of trouble to create this recipe; in fact, he wrote a lengthy post on a separate page (http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/05/the-burger-lab-how-to-make-perfect-mcdonalds-style-french-fries.html) detailing his mission to create (or RE-create) the perfect french fry, which in his opinion is the McDonald’s french fry. He also mentions here that McDonald’s used to fry their potatoes in beef tallow (lard), which made me chuckle a bit – I’d been telling my son just a couple of weeks ago how good McDonald’s fries USED to be, when I was a kid and they were fried in lard…you know, before the Nutrition Nazis came along and said that hydrogenated oils were SOOOO much more healthier than lard, which has since been proven FALSE (pfft!). I don’t know about you, but that crap they fry them in now has a nasty, bitter after-taste to me (which is how my son and I got on the subject in the first place). I told him that, once I manage to locate some decent lard that’s non-hydrogenated, I’m going to fry potatoes in it for him and his sister, so that they can get an idea of how good they were back in the day…when dinosaurs roamed the Earth,
So, I followed this recipe to the letter (except for the type of oil and the amount of oil – I used half of what his recipe calls for), and they turned out beautifully! In the past, my homemade fries have been okay, but there was always something missing – either the texture was off and they were chewy, or they were way too crispy (like, break-a-tooth, crispy), or they tasted bland…. I’ve just never, ever had homemade fries that tasted so good. Period. In fact, my son said that he thinks they’re BETTER than McDonald’s fries (which, of course, made my day).
I would like to mention that I think the key to this recipe isn’t necessarily frying TWICE – I think the key is pre-cooking the potatoes in the water/vinegar/salt mixture…THAT, to me, is what made all the difference. But the reason I say that frying two times might not be necessary is that, after pre-cooking them in the water mixture, I used one potato slice to test the temperature of the oil since I have a crappy cooking thermometer…and that one fry tasted amazing. However, if I wanted to freeze them for cooking at a later date, I wouldn’t skip that initial 50-second fry, which I think might be necessary if you’re not going to cook them right away. In fact, I’d always wondered why frozen, packaged potatoes felt, “greasy” when taking them out of the bag, and now I know….
It’s worth while noting that the first time I made these fries, I painstakingly cut them into McDonald’s-sized fries by hand. All six russet potatoes. By hand. Into one-quarter-inch slices. All I can say about that is, UGH. Since the fries turned out so well the first time, I knew I’d be making them again (and again, and again…), so I decided to invest in a, “mandolin” slicer (inserting another gratuitous Amazon Associate hyperlink: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000632QE?&linkCode=wss&tag=creati05c-20), which made the task much, much quicker and easier the subsequent time. I also managed to keep all of my digits in tact, which is another plus
A couple of tips….
* Frying the potatoes in the (strained) oil in which the chicken was cooked will add additional flavor.
* You can reuse your oil by allowing it to cool and then straining it through a cheesecloth-lined, wire-mesh strainer; just store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. I don’t know how long it will keep, but I would think AT LEAST a month.
* If you make both recipes at the same time, prepare the, “marinade” for the chicken in a zipper bag, add the chicken, then put it in the refrigerator to marinate. About two to four hours later, begin peeling and slicing the potatoes and continue with the french fries recipe. After you’ve fried the potatoes the FIRST time (Step 2), while the potatoes are cooling, you can begin coating and frying the chicken. Pre-heat your oven to 200-degrees and prepare a paper towel lined cookie sheet for the fried tenders; this will absorb excess oil and keep your chicken warm, since more than likely, you’ll have a few batches to make. Cook most of the chicken between two or more frying pans, then when you’ve got just enough chicken left for one pan, begin frying the potatoes in the other pan; strain the oil first, if you wish. Have a second paper towel lined cookie sheet ready in the oven for the french fries. This is just a suggestion, of course…something to help with time management. Any way you do it, though, make sure to fry the potatoes LAST because you’ll want them to be nice and crispy.
Check out my pictures below, and if you try your hand at one or both of these recipes, enjoy!
Hand-cut potatoes from 1st batch, just after boiling
Cooked fries from second batch