Sure. Nothing’s stopping you from picking up a bucket on your way to camp, wrapping it in foil, and throwing a hobo pack of fried chicken to warm on the fire while you pitch your tent. (In fact, now that we mention it, that sounds like a pretty good idea.) But freshly pan-fried tenders are actually quite easy, especially if one person does the breading while another minds the skillet. And this slightly sweet, super-crunchy topping is hard to beat.
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast or tenders
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups corn flakes
2 cups coarse breadcrumbs (homemade or Panko-style)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp pepper
1/ tsp cayenne
3-4 cups peanut oil, for frying
Lemon wedges, for serving
- If you’re using chicken breasts, cut them lengthwise into 1- to 2-inch strips. Put the chicken and buttermilk in an airtight container with 1 teaspoon of the salt. The goal is to let the meat marinate at least 2 hours before cooking, but no more than 12. So if you plan to eat the chicken early in your trip, add the buttermilk, give a good stir, and refrigerate the package. If you’re going to wait, freeze the chicken if you like and add the buttermilk at camp.
- Put the cornflakes in a large re-sealable plastic bag and crush them with your hands or a rolling pin until they’re coarse crumbs. Add the breadcrumbs, flour, remaining salt, pepper, and cayenne to the bag.
- Make sure you’ve got enough oil packed to cover frying the chicken.
- If you froze the chicken, make sure it thaws in the cooler until you’re ready to add the buttermilk and cook it. Heat about 1/2 inch of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Spread out some towels or a paper bag for draining.
- While you’re waiting for the oil to get hot, start dredging the chicken: Put a piece or two in the bag of breading, reseal it, and shake it around to coat evenly on all sides. Remove to a plate and repeat.
- Every few minutes test the oil: It should shimmer and a pinch of the breading will sizzle on contact. When it’s ready, start adding chicken to the pan, keeping the strips about 1/2 inch apart. Cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is browned and the chicken releases easily from the pan, 2-3 minutes. Adjust the heat so the meat sizzles without burning.
- As pieces finish, transfer them to the towels or bag to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken and serve hot or cold with lemon wedges.
Wipe the skillet clean after it cools; it won’t need seasoning. And you already know what to do with leftover fried chicken: Grab a cold piece from the fridge for a midnight snack. Only this time you’ll be rummaging around in a cooler full of melting ice.
MAKE A QUICK BOURBON PAN GRAVY: Drain the fat from the pan, reserving about 1/4 cup. Wipe it out a bit so there are no burned bits of cornflakes left behind. Return the oil to the pan and set it over medium-high heat. Add a bunch of chopped scallions, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper; cook, stirring, until the scallions soften a bit, 1-2 minutes; then stir in 1/4 cup flour. Keep stirring until the flour turns golden and smells toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup bourbon, raise the heat a bit and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until it bubbles and thickens a bit, no more than a minute. Add 1 cup chicken stock (or water mixed with a squeeze of lemon), and cook and stir a couple minutes more to get the consistency you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and spoon the sauce over the chicken.