How to make it

  • Notes:
  • Firecracker chicken is a version of fried chicken (using boneless chicken breasts) that earns its explosive name from the tongue-tingling heat found in its sauce. Other than chiles, there is little consensus as to what ingredients belong in the sauce. We set out to perfect a single sauce that could be used three ways: as a marinade, as a tasty addition to the batter, and for serving at the table. Here's what we discovered.
  • Test Kitchen Discoveries
  • We like yellow (aka "hot dog") mustard as an admittedly unusual foundation for the sauce. It not only has a bright flavor and color but also has a consistency that helps the final sauce cling nicely to the fried chicken.
  • Habanero chiles contribute the required level of heat. Pickled banana peppers and dry mustard add a nice acidic tang.
  • Adding some of the sauce to the batter makes for fuller flavor.
  • Dipping the chicken in foamy egg whites anchors the coating.
  • 1. For the sauce: Whisk ingredients together in large bowl.
  • 2. For the chicken: Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound lightly with meat mallet until about 1/2 inch thick. Slice breasts in half lengthwise and transfer to large zipper-lock storage bag. Add 1/4 cup Firecracker Sauce to bag, seal, and gently squeeze bag to coat chicken with sauce. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours).
  • 3. Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder. Add 6 tablespoons Firecracker Sauce and, using hands, combine until mixture resembles coarse, wet sand.
  • 4. In another large bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Working with one strip at a time, dip chicken in egg whites and transfer to flour mixture, pressing lightly to adhere. Place chicken pieces on wire rack set on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate 15 minutes (or up to 4 hours).
  • 5. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully place half of chicken strips in oil and fry until golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to baking sheet lined with paper towels and place in warm oven. Repeat with remaining chicken strips. Transfer chicken to platter, drizzle with remaining sauce, and serve.

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