When a recipe fails – Fried chicken (cooking challenge)

Cracker Barrel style fried chicken strip recipes made to look like a smiley face with barbecue sauce

A few weeks ago, I tried the Cracker Barrel fried chicken and well, I may have just fallen in love a tiny bit. For a chain restaurant, that may be a first even, but I really enjoyed the crispy coating and it seemed like the perfect fried chicken to replicate for this challenge.

When it came time to do so, we had company and again, I thought, “hey, this lines up pretty nicely,” especially considering one of the kids only eats chicken. “Perfect.” And the recipe I found that claimed to be a copycat of it? Looked great!

I decided last minute to try to bake it instead of fry it, though, and it was a HORRIBLE mess. Sure, it tasted okay, but it looked horrible. Parts of it were still powdery and most of the coating stuck to the pan, despite taking precautions.

Baked chicken mess on aluminum foil

In my book, definitely a failure….so much so that I didn’t even consider taking a picture until I was clearing the table and it was mostly gone already. And then I only took a picture to show the mess, ha.

Failed baked fried chicken recipe with buttermilk pancake batter

See? Not exaggerating.

I woke up a few mornings later, though, and decided that before I even scrounged around for breakfast, I’d toss another few strips of chicken into a milk bath to soak. I didn’t bother measuring out seasonings this time. I didn’t even use half of them. It was a spur of the moment thing and I figured I had a 50/50 shot of convincing myself to even cook it later that day. Maybe I’d say ‘screw it’ and microwave it for the dog instead.

But by lunch time, I did want to fry them. I really wanted to see if it was the difference between baking and frying that made the recipe work. And turns out, it was.

Fried chicken tender strips in the sunshine

I started arranging the pieces on a lovely white plate, as all food bloggers are supposed to, and at some point midway through, I asked my sister “What am I doing?! That’s not how I do this.”

At which point, I headed for the smiley face sauce:

Fried chicken strip smiley face like Cracker Barrel secret recipe

Phew. Personality confusion crisis averted. Much better.

And the taste? Soooo much better than it was when I baked it. This was definitely a case where the batter wasn’t going to hold well without being tossed into super hot oil so that it’d hold in a single piece around the chicken….without actually sticking to the chicken at all.

Bite of chicken with buttermilk batter crust peeling off

See how it’s not really touching around most of the chicken?

Anyway, this was sooo much better, both in presentation and taste departments. The double-dipping in the batter was worth the little bit of extra time and for once, this is a recipe I’ll likely repeat.

Speaking of, here’s the recipe and the linky at the bottom for the Cooking Challenge.

  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce (used another hot sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (didn’t add)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 frying chickens (about 3 pounds each), cut up (used breasts instead)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (you think I actually measured this stuff? pfft)
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (made my own)
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying

The directions can be found here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Double-Dipped-Buttermilk-Fried-Chicken-358138  I didn’t follow half of them, though. I did let it set for a few hours. I did fry it. And that’s about it. Cook it like normal chicken….nothing special.

Also, this looks like a cartoon fish:

Chicken that looks tastes like fish instead

If you don’t see it, that’s probably a good thing….

Crazy cooking challenge logo

When the groceries hit the ground…

Glass bottle of oil broken on concrete - How to clean up oil

Then it’s guaranteed to be the only box with a glass bottle of oil in it.

Spilled groceriesDropped a box of groceriesPiles of paper towels - Just how much oil can they soak?

And the rest? Oh yeah, those groceries are going to go FLYING. Have you ever seen projectile ice cream cones? How about peanut butter jars who actually coordinate to roll in different directions?

Yeah, me neither.

Oil soaked paper towels to clean up a mess - Art?

I don’t take pictures of oil soaked paper towels because they “look cool” either. And most definitely not when there are a dozen boxes that still need to be brought in because some genius thinks it’s a good idea to shop a month at a time.

Nope, that’d just be silly.

“Please never make that hot yellow nasty stuff again”

Hominy skillet

Not every recipe is a winner. In fact, a good chunk of recipes really aren’t that great at all.

Sometimes that’s because they’re simply boring or bland or not that special.

Other times, though? It’s because they’re nasty.

What's the difference between Bush's white hominy maiz pozolero and golden yellow hominy

It all started with these innocent cans. I don’t even know why we had them or where we got them at this point. I don’t recall intentionally buying them because I’m not a huge fan of hominy. It had been years since I’d tried it, though, so maybe I had bought them on sale and wanted to compare kinds.

Cans of hominy to compare colors

Or maybe some evil friend of the family passed them on to us because -they- didn’t like them. Whatever the origination, they sat in our pantry for quite a while before I finally found a recipe that I thought would both use them up -and- cover any taste or texture issues I had with them.

Sauteed fried onions and peppers

Lots and lots of onions and peppers for to give it flavor…. 

Hominy fried in bacon grease

Plenty of bacon for good measure, because really, what can’t bacon cover and make better?

(I’ll give you a hint…this dish.)

Pile of hominy with cheese and bacon

Piled high with with cheese because well….bacon…cheese…. what could go wrong?


Blended until thoroughly cooked and almost disguised as the normal corn that we all love and enjoy. 
 Fried and then baked cheesy hominy casserole

Ultimately, no matter how it looked, it was not a favorite. In fact, on top of the poor texture and us all wishing we had stuck with only bacon and cheese, it was too hot for a couple of them. None of them could ever remember what it was called, but it went down in kitchen history as “that hot stuff you made that one time” or “that nasty thing you made that one time.”

As in, 2 years after the fact:

Me: Hey guys, what do you want for supper?
Them: Not that stuff you made that one time. ‘member? That hot yellow nasty stuff you made? I don’t want that.