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Chicken-Fried Chicken with Bacon-Infused Gravy
⅓ pound bacon
1 ½ cups flour
3-4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
3 large boneless chicken breasts, trimmed, cut in half, and pounded
1 cup buttermilk*
Hot sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons bacon grease
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 ½ cans of chicken broth (21 ounces total)
½ cup finely diced onion
1 ½ cups milk
¾ teaspoon black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large, heavy skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the cooked bacon and put it aside for now (try not to eat it!). Pour out all of the rendered bacon grease (you should have about 3 tablespoons of it) into a coffee cup. Don't throw it away. You'll need it in a bit.
While your bacon is frying, season the chicken breasts with Cajun seasoning, to taste. (Note: This time, I used C'Mon Man Cajun Seasoning produced by former LSU great Charles Alexander, and it was outstanding.)
Mix together the flour and two teaspoons of the Cajun seasoning in a small bowl.
Pour the buttermilk* into a shallow dish. If desired, you can add a couple of dashes of hot sauce to give it a little kick. (*Note: I rarely have buttermilk on hand, but I've found that mixing one tablespoon of vinegar into one cup of milk and letting it sit for about 30 minutes makes a wonderful substitute.)
Dredge the chicken in the buttermilk, followed by the flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil combined with 1 tablespoon of bacon grease in your heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add three of your six pieces of chicken to the hot oil and cook until both sides are browned, about 3 minutes per side, and then transfer to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
Whisk together the cornstarch and 3/4 cup chicken broth until dissolved. Set aside.
To make the gravy, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of bacon grease to the same skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining chicken broth, scrape the pan drippings with a wooden spoon, raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture begins to bubble, about 2 minutes. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and stir well. At this point, grab the bacon you cooked earlier and crumble it in. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then let it simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the milk and black pepper and continue cooking over medium-high heat until thickened (about five minutes longer.)
Remove the chicken from the oven and place a piece on each plate along with a healthy dollop of homemade mashed potatoes. Ladle gravy over it all and enjoy!
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