They say you attract more flies with honey, but what about maple syrup?
I try to keep ranty/ravy stuff off the blog – people have enough of their own problems without having to hear about mine – but gosh darn it, my laptop’s hard drive failed 2 weeks ago and the computer repair center I sent it to has been holding it hostage ever since (meanwhile I’ve been using Ben’s.) It’s been like pulling teeth to get updates and I still have no idea when I’ll get the dang thing back.
Throughout these past two weeks I’ve been sweet as honey with the technicians and customer service representatives I’ve dealt with. Like, beyond. Until someone made me cry. The person I was talking to wouldn’t let me get a single word in and just kept repeating the same canned line over and over…and over and over. It was mind blowingly frustrating. So I hung up and ugly cried.
Then I turned to Twitter.
Obviously honey wasn’t working, so I cranked up the saccharine dial to maple syrup and made an impassioned pleet (plea + tweet) for help (read: begged) which had this particular company practically buzzing at my door with a solution 5 minutes later. God bless social media for helping me with my wretched first world problems. Fingers crossed this actually works.
Another area where maple syrup really does the trick? In a sweet and savory dipping sauce for Baked Popcorn Chicken!
Ever since Ben and I came home from Charleston last month, I’ve been replaying one of the last meals we had there over and over again in my mind - Chicken & Waffles from The Rarebit. It was, without a doubt, the best bite of food I had on our entire trip (it was Ben’s meal so I mooched off the side.) The combo of salty chicken, creamy waffles, and sweet maple syrup was simply sublime.
I’ve been trying to think of easy ways to recreate the flavors at home since then, and I think I may have found my answer: Baked Popcorn Chicken with Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce! Bonus: they’re freezer-friendly too!
Lean chicken breasts are cut into poppable bite-sized pieces then seasoned with Cajun seasoning, rolled in panko bread crumbs, and then baked for a super crispy crunch. Maple Syrup, Dijon mustard, and plain Greek yogurt combine to create a dipping sauce that echoes the sweet and savory flavor of the dish I fell in love with at The Rarebit.
Is this an exact replica of their Chicken & Waffles? No. Do the flavors take me back to our trip for a bit? Heck yeah!
Start the Baked Popcorn Chicken first, with 1lb chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces. You could cut the chicken into bigger pieces for nuggets, but I think popcorn chicken is just so much fun. : )
Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and Cajun Seasoning then stir to coat. I usually either have this Cajun seasoning blend on hand or I make Emerils Essence, which is fabulous too.
Next get the breading stations ready. First combine 2 eggs with 2 Tablespoons water in a shallow dish.
In another shallow dish combine 1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs and 3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning.
Note: this amount of Cajun seasoning on both the chicken and in the panko bread crumbs didn’t make the popcorn chicken too spicy, but it depends on the blend you use. Emeril’s Essence, for instance, is a lot spicier than this so adjust accordingly!
Also, a word on panko bread crumbs: I LURVE panko bread crumbs for the crunchy texture they give oven “fried” foods. They can, however, make the final product a little dry if you get too much on there – especially when you’re working with little bites of chicken. That being said, don’t panic if every inch of the chicken isn’t covered in bread crumbs. A little goes a long way!
K, time to bread!
Working in batches, dunk the seasoned chicken in the egg mixture then into the seasoned bread crumbs. I just use my fingers. It’s fast…and kinda fun. ; )
Place the chicken onto a nonstick-sprayed, foil-lined baking sheet, spray the tops with olive oil or nonstick spray, then bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes, flipping half way through, OR pop the sheet pan into the freezer and freeze until the chicken is solid then transfer to a freezer bag. Pull out and bake the same way as if they were fresh (ie do not thaw.)
While the chicken’s a cookin’ whip up that Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce. It’s ridiculous. Simply stir together 1/4 cup each real maple syrup and plain Greek yogurt with 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard.
Plop the baked popcorn chicken onto a plate, spoon up the dipping sauce, and then dunk away!
Baked Popcorn Chicken with Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce
1lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt & pepper
2 Tablespoons water
1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
3/4 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
For the Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees then spray a foil-lined baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside. Lightly season chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning then stir to coat. In a shallow dish whisk together egg and water. In another shallow dish mix together panko bread crumbs and Cajun seasoning.
- Dunk seasoned chicken in egg mixture then bread crumb mixture, and then place onto prepared baking sheet. Spray tops with olive oil or nonstick spray then bake for 10-12 minutes (depending on how big you cut your chicken,) flipping halfway through.
- For the Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce: stir ingredients together then serve.
- To freeze popcorn chicken: freeze on the baking sheet after breading and before baking until completely frozen, and then transfer to a freezer bag. Bake straight from the freezer as directed (do not thaw first.)
Confession: popcorn chicken from KFC used to be like, my favorite, favorite, favorite thing ever back in the day. I would rejoice every time they came back on the menu, as I feel like they disappeared quite frequently?! Anyway, this is a fun and MUCH healthier way to enjoy ‘em!
Plus you’re not going to find that sweet and creamy dipping sauce on any fast food menu. With the warm flavor of maple combined with a spicy hint of Dijon, it’s really unique and yummy. Hope you enjoy!