I have this little deal with myself: run a hundred klicks, eat some spicy chicken, rinse, repeat…
And the little place in the basement of a local downtown office tower, a place I don’t want to name because I don’t want to imply in any way that this is their recipe (which it is not) has been my go-to place for cashing in on that little deal. It’s called incentive.
They make this awesome hot-and-dry chicken, plated over a bed of fried rice and noodles with some steamed veggies, which I’m sure is about a bazillion calories and worth every step of that hundred klicks.
But I’ve been really watching what I eat lately, making up for a careless season of gluttony and stress-related justification that started shortly before Halloween and ended with a triple turkey dinner over Christmas, and which knocked the scales up over a number I was not happy to see.
Solution: take a break from fast food for a long-ish while.
But then I ran a hundred klicks. So… y’know, it was time to crack the secret of the hot & dry chicken. A deal’s a deal, right?
- 125 ml of cornmeal
- 125 ml of all purpose flour
- 7.5 ml of chili powder
- 15 ml of chili flakes
- 30 ml of minced garlic
The key, I figured was rooted in two aspects of this dish: first, the rub needed to be generously crispy and purposefully spicy. It couldn’t be too-hot-spicy, but it needed that chili flavour with chili flake thing going on. Second, the simple flour coating was also not going to cut it, because I needed a long, satisfying shallow fry and in my experience simple flour rubs tend to start absorbing too much oil, softening up, and ultimately flaking off when you go that route.
My rub, then, turned into a balance of cornmeal and white flour, then packed full of spice. I was dealing with limited ingredients though, so I opted to hit it hard with the trifecta of flavour country: a generous half tablespoon of chili powder, a heap of chili flakes (and I probably could have doubled that for my own tastes) and a helping of minced garlic.
Mixed, it formed a dry, coarse and slightly lumpy breading-type coating.
- 1 egg
- 2 chicken breasts
- a couple cups of chopped broccoli
I did the standard chicken bits in an egg wash routine: you’ve been there. The smaller the bits the crispier the chicken at the end of this, but I wasn’t pushing my luck. I kept the chunks nicely sized at about pinkie-finger size. Bit sized. Niblet sized. Popcorn chicken sized.
Into the egg wash and then rolled it all around in the rub. Two chicken breasts was enough for about four servings and the rub was pretty much spent when I go through coating everything as well as I wanted.
In the meantime, I had been heating a shallow fry of vegetable oil: about a half centimeter in the bottom of a pan over the heat: enough heat to fast cook, but we have sensitive smoke alarms and so I wasn’t scorching the oil either. Fire extinguisher and a sturdy lid on standby: safety first.
And then the cooking: with the shallow fry I had a solid picture in my mind of how I wanted this to look. The coating needed to have a crispy, dry, rich hue: we’re leaving the realm of health food here, I realize, but there is a flavour that can’t be had unless you reach that fried-to-dried state. When I got about 75% of the way there, I drained off the bulk of the oil, and stirred in the broccoli chunks, and let the steam do some action on that.
Done cooking, I served over white rice with a garnish of kohlrabi slivers. And before you ask, yeah, it was pretty darn close to that reward I was looking for.