Celebrate National Fried Chicken Day with crispy tenders

You don't have to be a kid to appreciate crispy, tender chicken fingers.

You don't have to be a kid to appreciate crispy, tender chicken fingers.

Making fried chicken from scratch is a mission, even on National Fried Chicken Day (July 6). The brining, the marinating, the breading, the frying, the fretting about overcooking or undercooking the bone-in chicken parts – it requires patience, not to mention serious skill.

To which I say there’s no shame in finding delicious shortcuts. Ditch the bone-in bird; go for the tenderloins, those narrow fillets that cook in a flash.

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Here's a terrific recipe from Southern food writer Rebecca Lang's "Fried Chicken" cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2015). Serve these crispy tenders with your favorite dipping sauce or, if you're feeling slightly industrious, whip up Lang's honey mustard and "Comeback" sauces.


Recipes adapted from “Fried Chicken: Recipes for the Crispy, Crunchy, Comfort-Food Classic” by Rebecca Lang (Ten Speed, 2015). 

Add your own favorite dipping sauce or make one of Lang's sauces for your tenders.

Credit: Rennee Brock/Cox Newspapers

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Credit: Rennee Brock/Cox Newspapers

Rebecca Lang’s Camden’s Favorite Chicken Fingers 

Serves: 4-6 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs

2 teaspoons salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups buttermilk

Pure olive oil, for frying

1 3⁄4 pounds chicken tenderloins (about 18 tenderloins)

Honey Mustard (see recipe), for serving

Comeback Sauce (see recipe), for serving

  • In a bowl, whisk together the flour, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Pour the buttermilk into another bowl.
  • In a large heavy skillet, heat 1⁄2 inch of olive oil over medium heat to 325 degrees. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Working with half of the chicken tenderloins at a time, dip them in the buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture. Stir the flour mixture often to keep the bread crumbs from settling to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Carefully place the tenderloins in the hot oil. Fry, turning often, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown and juices run clear. Maintain an oil temperature of 315 to 325 degrees.
  • Drain the pieces on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
  • Serve the chicken fingers with honey mustard and sauce.

Homemade Honey Mustard 

Makes: 1 cup 

1⁄2 cup yellow mustard

1⁄2 cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1⁄4 teaspoon paprika

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, lemon zest and paprika.
  • Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Comeback Sauce 

Makes: 1 1/4 cups 

1⁄2 cup mayonnaise

1⁄4 cup chili sauce, such as Heinz

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1⁄2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1⁄4 teaspoon paprika

1⁄8 teaspoon garlic powder

1⁄8 teaspoon onion powder

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, chili sauce, ketchup, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper.
  • Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.