Three seemingly simple additions—a fragrant blend of dried herbs and spices in the dry brine; a boost of powerful umami flavor in the dredging; and a dipping sauce that is seasonal by way of apple cider—take a classic recipe and turn it into something that extends beyond the realm of kid food and into something the whole family will be requesting. —Ashley Rodriguez
In a small saucepan combine the apple cider, cider vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly reduced.
Combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the hot sauce. Whisk until smooth. Add this slurry to the sauce and whisk to combine. Bring the sauce back to a boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until slightly thickened.
Strain the sauce through a sieve and let cool slightly.
This sauce can be made up to three days in advance. Gently rewarm before serving.
For the chicken tenders:
Combine the chicken, salt, thyme, oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne. Toss well to be sure all the spices are evenly distributed. Cover, refrigerate, and let marinate for at least 1 hour or ideally overnight.
In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and Worcestershire. Finally in another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
Dredge a chicken tender in the flour, then dip it into the buttermilk mixture. Then add it to the bowl with the breadcrumbs, pressing them into the chicken to get a good even coat. Transfer each chicken piece to a plate until they are all properly coated.
Heat about 2 inches of oil in a large pot. Be sure to leave plenty of room for the oil to bubble up. When the oil reaches 350° F, carefully add 3 to 4 chicken tenders. Fry until the exterior is deep in color and the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to another platter and sprinkle with flaky salt while they are still hot. Serve the chicken with the Apple Cider Sweet and Sour Sauce.