I’ve been pondering this recipe for quite some time. Back in the good old SAD days, on the rare occasion we’d go to some place like Red Lobster, I almost always got the coconut shrimp. There was just something about it, dipped in that super-sweet sauce. Of course, such sauces are now a thing of the past and recently I’ve become quite leery of shrimp; the vast majority of it available in the United States is farmed, much of it imported from Asia, Indonesia and South America. Many of these farms are the aquatic version of CAFO feedlots – the conditions in which the shrimp are raised is simply awful, and while the thought of mistreated shrimp doesn’t engender the same kind of pathos that mistreated cows do (at least for me), there’s the issue of MY health if I eat them. And wild-caught shrimp can be just gawd-awfully expensive.
The logical solution was, of course, to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I mean, who’s ever heard of coconut fried beef or coconut fried pork? I mean, I’m sure it can be done, and probably quite deliciously, but you get my point.
The chicken itself was not a problem, but it took me awhile to figure out what to do about the sauce. The last of the summer peaches sitting on my counter and on the verge of becoming overripe were the answer to that, and the dipping sauce that resulted was marvelously fruity without being cloyingly sweet, with a nice kick from the red pepper flakes. Even The Young One ate this dish, and he’s not crazy about coconut, and has something of an aversion to any sauce with his chicken strips that’s not barbecue sauce.
Note: Frozen peaches can be substituted for fresh, if needed, and the sauce can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.
Coconut Fried Chicken with Spicy Peach Dipping Sauce
serves 4 to 6
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup lard
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
In a blender or food processor, puree the peaches until smooth. Transfer the puree to a 1-quart saucepan; add the honey and vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the red pepper flakes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Combine the eggs, water, basil, oregano and pepper in a medium mixing bowl; whisk until well blended. In a separate, larger bowl, mix together the almond flour, coconut and salt.
Heat the lard in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking. Working in batches, dip the chicken strips into the egg mixture, then transfer to the coconut mixture. Coat each strip lightly but evenly with the coconut/almond flour mixture, then place in the skillet.
Fry the strips until browned and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes each side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels until all strips have been cooked.
Serve immediately with the peach dipping sauce.