Buttermilk Chicken Sliders with Drunken Caramelized Onions and Basil Goat Cheese Aioli

What can I say about sliders? They are on so many pub menus. They’re perhaps my favorite of all sandwiches and have been the culinary centerpiece to quite a few of my gatherings. I’ve made platters of them piled a foot high for my friends and family to pluck from whenever they wanted. I’ve also set up self-serve stations so my guests can pile whatever meats, toppings and cheeses they’d like onto their buns. It’s a fun little food item that can be as simple or as elegant as you want it to be and a great outlet for your culinary creativity.

Whenever I hear the word “slider,” I automatically think “baby burger.” The gears in my brain start to turn and as much as I am in love with that kind of sandwich, the explorer in me almost always defaults to something a little different. On one of the many days I’ve spent in my kitchen cooking, I decided to venture away from the common red meat patty and turned to the protein I had on hand. And I am so glad I did.

My Buttermilk Chicken Sliders with Drunken Caramelized Onions and Basil Goat Cheese Aioli is that special kind of slider that you can truly treat your friends and family to during any informal gathering any time of the year. Thanks to the buttermilk, the chicken is juicy and crispy, the onions are sweet and the aioli is savory — a trinity I consider holy in the culinary world. There are layers of flavor that unfold with each bite, which is what will keep your guests requesting more.

For your next gathering, up your slider game. Use this recipe and impress your guests. Disappointment will be an emotion long forgotten if you do.

Buttermilk Chicken Sliders with Drunken Caramelized Onions and Basil Goat Cheese Aioli

(recipe serving size – 10 sliders)

For the chicken:

1 1/2 lb chicken breast, cut into 10 2-inch pieces

2 tsp cracked black pepper

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the buttermilk:

2 cups of buttermilk

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

For the seasoned flour:

1 1/2 cups of flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 tb and 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tb and 1 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tsp celery seed

2 tsp granulated garlic

1 tsp dried tarragon

Combine the ingredients for the seasoned flour in one bowl. Do the same with the buttermilk in a second bowl or plastic food storage container with a lid. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper and place the pieces of chicken into the buttermilk. Cover the bowl or food storage container and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to fry.

For the onions:

1 large onion, sliced

1/2 cup white wine

2 tb of butter

2 tb olive oil

2 tsp honey

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

4 sprigs of rosemary

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Place a pot or pan that has a lid over medium-low to low heat. Add the butter and olive oil. Once the butter has melted, add the rosemary and crushed red pepper flakes and cook gently for 3-5 minutes, making sure the pepper and rosemary do not burn. Add the garlic, onions and white wine. Place the lid on the pot or pan and simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until the onions have softened and become translucent. Remove the lid and continue to cook until any remaining liquid has evaporated and the onions have slightly browned.

Drop your heat down to its lowest setting and return the lid loosely to the pot or pan to keep the onions warm.

For the basil and goat cheese spread:

2/3 cup of mayonnaise

1/2 cup of fresh basil, finely chopped

1/2 cup of goat cheese, softened

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp of sriracha

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Mix the ingredients in a mason jar or small bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to use.

For frying:

The buttermilk chicken

The seasoned flour

1 qt of canola oil

4 sprigs of rosemary

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

Heat 3/4 of an inch of oil along with the garlic and rosemary in a high-sided pan over medium to medium-high heat. Remove the garlic and rosemary once the both start to sizzle, the garlic has turned slightly brown and the rosemary has crisped.

Test the oil by dropping a pinch of flour into it. The flour should sizzle instantly and vibrantly without burning. If the flour burns, remove the pan of oil off of the heat for a moment. Slightly lower your burner. Return the pan of oil to the heat for 1-2 minutes and test the oil again.

Once the oil is ready, coat each piece of chicken in the seasoned flour and gently place them into the hot oil. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through. Place the cooked pieces on a wire rack or plate lined with paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.

Bringing it all together:

10 potato slider rolls (preferably Martin’s)

OPTIONAL STEP: Turn on the broiler to your oven. Open the rolls so the insides of each are facing upward and broil them until they have browned. 

Smear some of the basil and goat cheese spread on the top and bottom of each slider roll. Place one piece of chicken on each bun and top with a few slices of caramelized onion. Line them or stack them on a serving platter and eat while warm.

My Recommendations:

Here are a few extra tips I’ve got for you when you decide to make this dish.

  • Make extra aioli! While you’ll have enough of the basil goat cheese spread for your 10 sliders, you will wish you had more. Double the recipe to be on the safe side. And if there is extra, refrigerate it. It will keep for up to a week.
  • Wait as long as you can to fry the chicken. While you can keep the chicken warm in the oven, these little nuggets taste best when they’ve just been cooked.
    • If you are feeding a smaller group and have the time to fry closer to when your guests will be eating, prepare the aioli, the onions and the seasoned flour as early as the day before your gathering. Season your chicken and place the pieces in the buttermilk up to an hour before your guests arrive. 30 minutes before you are going to serve up the sandwiches, start heating up the oil. This will give you more than enough time to reheat the onions, toast the buns, fry the chicken and assemble the sliders for your guests to enjoy.
    • If you are feeding an army, do not fret with the waiting. Fry these little guys up to an hour before serving and keep them warm in a 200-degree oven until they are ready to be assembled.

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