So, I’m a nerd. I work in a lab, I’m probably the History Channel’s number one viewer, and I even have terrible eyesight and wore thick glasses during the awkward years of my life. One of the biggest perks about my job (besides that I love it) is a relatively flexible schedule. I work well over 40 hours a week and am a slave to the feeding schedule of my cells (fat cells nonetheless!), but as long as I’m productive I can adjust my we any way I please. Today I decided to leave work early. Ok, ‘early’ was actually 5pm but that’s a whole 2 hours extra to play with tonight! However, I can’t seem to avoid taking my work home with me and what ensued was a series of kitchen experiments culminating in a delicious dinner and knowledge of the correct way to slice a mango. I’m seriously considering starting a kitchen lab notebook. As I previously stated, I’m a nerd. In keeping with the scientific spirit, I’m going to write this post like a journal article.
At first google, the amount of coconut chicken recipes online is completely overwhelming. Bake vs. fry, coconut flakes, flour, milk, egg whites vs. full eggs…. Everyone has a spin and everyone claims theirs is the best.
To get to the bottom of this, I grabbed some chicken tenders and made all 8 a different way. I used two ‘breadings’, plain shredded coconut and a mixture of coconut and almond flour, two methods of cooking, bake vs. pan fry, and also tried a double batter and a pre-batter of coconut flour.
Hypothesis Not all recipes are created equal… One way must trump the others. Categories measured- coconut flavor, crisp, well cooked chicken, time (I wanted a quick weeknight recipe).
While each tender was certainly enjoyable there were some significant differences. Utilizing almond flour in the breading yielded an obvious ‘nutty’ flavor which, while tasty, overpowered the coconut. Baking the tenders yielded juicy chicken with the most coconut flavor, but took the longest and didn’t have the nice crisp from pan frying. The pan-fried, solely coconut battered tenders were crispy, flavorful, ready in 5 minutes and the hands down favorite of the evening.
This was so much fun! It’s hard to go wrong with coconut and in truth, I would be happy eating any of these combination for dinner. Pan fried, straight coconut was my favorite, mostly due to the time, texture and flavor but baking (350*F for 15-20 minutes) was a close second. Larger pieces of chicken might fare better in the oven because the longer stove-top time could burn the coconut. Surprisingly, pre-dredging with coconut flour made little difference. The point of this step (usually done with regular flour) is to dry the surface enough and give the egg something to bind. Tenders with coconut flour did hold onto breading a little better, but as long as tenders were patted completely dry before egg and I was gentle with the tongs this wasn’t a noticeable difference. Double breading the tenders made them more crispy and slightly more coconut-y, but wasn’t necessary either.
Quick coconut chicken
1 lb chicken tenders
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut flakes (look near the Bob’s alternate flours, not the chocolate chips)
Pinch of salt
2 tbs coconut oil
Optional- 2 tbs coconut flou
Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Pat chicken dry (or lightly dredge in coconut flour), dip into egg mixture and roll in coconut flakes with salt until coated. Cook a few minutes per side and enjoy immediately.
As a side I made mango slaw. This isn’t my favorite recipe but it was yummy and worked with the ingredients in my kitchen.
1 mango sliced into thin “matchsticks”
1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
1 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 red pepper sliced into thin “matchsticks”
2 tbs lime mayonnaise (I make my own but regular (whole30 approved) mayo is fine…just add a tsp of lime juice to the dressing)
3 tbs rice vinegar
Drizzle of olive oil until desired consistency
Mix everything together. Enjoy.