Achaari Chicken bites

Achaari chicken bites served with red onions, cilantro, and a dollop of cucumber raita.

After a long semester in which my teaching load was so crazy that I had no time to really cook, let alone work on this blog, I’m thrilled to be back with a new recipe for the new year! These achaari chicken bites combine juicy chicken thigh meat with the tangy, spicy, salty flavors of Indian mango pickle to serve up some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Dish them up with oven-fresh naan, finely sliced red onion, and a shower of cilantro. In true Indian fashion, consider serving them with an array of dipping sauces to customize every mouthful: cucumber raita to temper the spice, tamarind or sweet mango chutney to play off of the bite of the mango pickle, or a splash of citrus to brighten things up. Not a fan of frying? You could bake the chicken bites, pan sear them, or even grill them (just omit the flour and corn starch). Whatever direction you take it, these are perfect for an appetizer, game-day snack, or entree.

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

¼ cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (or spicy paprika)

1/3 cup mango pickle (such as Patak’s brand)

1 tsp ground fenugreek (methi) seeds

1 TBSP sweet mango chutney (or apricot preserves, or honey)

½ cup corn starch

½ cup flour

Canola oil, for frying

Red onion, thinly sliced, to garnish

Fresh cilantro, chopped, to garnish

Instructions:

Rinse and dry the chicken thighs, then cut into 2” pieces. In a resealable plastic gallon bag, combine the Greek yogurt, eggs, cayenne, Kashmiri chili powder, mango pickle, fenugreek, and mango chutney and mix well. Double the amount of Kashmiri chili powder and cayenne if you like your food spicy. Add the chicken pieces and stir well to coat the meat. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 3 hours.

Add enough oil to a large cast iron skillet* to just cover the chicken pieces (about one inch’s worth) and heat to between medium and medium-high. You’ll know the oil’s hot enough when you can dip a plain chopstick into the oil and tiny bubbles rise off of it. While the oil is heating, add the corn starch into the bag of marinating chicken and mix well to coat the chicken pieces, then do the same with the flour.

Add the chicken pieces to the pan (but don’t overcrowd it!) and use a chopstick to gently separate any parts that cling to one another. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown; cut open one of the pieces to check that there’s no pink in the middle and you’ll know it’s done for sure. You will have to work in two or three batches; set finished pieces on a wire rack to drain while working on each subsequent batch. Once finished with the first round of frying, put the chicken pieces back into the hot oil for 30 seconds, to get it extra crispy, then drain again on the wire rack.

Serve hot, sprinkled with slices of red onion, chopped cilantro, with a generous side of fresh naan and dipping sauces of your choice.

*If you are using a deep fryer, set it to 356F and cook each batch for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown and there’s no pink in the middle. To keep the battered pieces from sticking, leave the basket in the pot and don’t touch it; just drop the pieces into the oil and use cooking chopsticks to move the pieces around and keep them separate and floating. Our chicken came out crispy enough with this method that we didn’t feel the need to do a second round of frying.

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