With Speedy and Alex out for the day, my plan was to cook pilaf and cauliflower steaks for Sam and myself. The rice cooker died and the pilaf turned soggy. I went ahead and cooked a cauliflower steak for Sam but I felt so bad about the pilaf that I wanted meat to console myself. I took out two chicken thigh fillets and cooked battered chicken.
Yes, I know. Most people yearn for a sugar high by gorging on sweets like ice cream and chocolate to make them feel better. I do too. Sometimes. But, today, I wanted meat. Two chicken thigh fillets should satisfy my craving.
But what I didn’t realize how large the yield would be and, looking at how much battered chicken I had, I considered that, perhaps, I was consoling myself too much. I wondered if I should leave half of it for later but, as anything battered goes, it was unlikely that the chicken would be as crisp after three or four hours.
So, I ate everything. All of the battered chicken and a little of the soggy pilaf was such a huge meal that I felt sleepy afterwards. It took a tall glass of iced coffee to keep my blood flowing.
Was the battered chicken any good? It was the best battered chicken I have ever cooked in my entire life. Moist chicken inside a light, puffy and ultra crisp crust.
The secret? There are two. Tempura batter and baking powder.
Wipe the chicken thigh fillets dry with paper towels.
Cut each chicken thigh fillet into six to eight cubes.
Toss the chicken with the celery salt and cayenne.
Start heating the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Ideally, the oil should be at least two inches deep.
Make the batter by whisking together the corn starch, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper. Pour cold water in a thin stream, mixing as you pour, until the mixture turns into a paste. The paste should be thick that it is rather difficult to mix.
Add a tablespoon of crushed ice to the paste. Mix to make a fairly thick but pourable batter. If the mixture is still too thick, add more ice little by little.
Dump the seasoned chicken into the batter and mix well to evenly coat each piece.
Test the temperature of the oil. If you have a thermometer, the temperature should be 350F. If not, do the test manually. Drop in a little batter. If it stays on the bottom of the pan after four to five seconds, the oil is not hot enough. If the batter browns within a few seconds, the oil is too hot. Make the necessary adjustment and keep testing until you get the temperature right. The oil temperature is crucial to make sure that the batter turns crisp without becoming too dark while the meat inside is cooked through without drying out.
Drop the battered chicken one by one into the hot oil. Fry for three to four minutes, flip over and continue frying for two to three minutes.
Scoop out the battered chicken and drain on a rack or on a stack of paper towels.
Both the chicken and batter are well seasoned so the battered chicken does not really require any dipping sauce. Serve them right away. By themselves, as finger food. Or with rice, for a complete meal.