Forget the drive-thru and put down your car keys — we've cracked the fast-food-crispy-chicken taco-shell code. Get ready for some homemade, handheld spice and crunch.
Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen
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3 hr
1 hr
4 servings



Special equipment: a deep fry thermometer

Whisk together 1 1/4 cups of the mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons of the hot sauce, 1 tablespoon each garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Puree the avocado, Ranch seasoning, 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and the remaining 1/2 cup mayonnaise in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Clean and dry the food processor. 

Pound each chicken cutlet with a meat mallet or a rolling pin between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4-inch thick. Trim any jagged edges to form an oval shape. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and transfer to a rimmed baking tray. Set aside. 

Pulse the Cheetos® in the food processor until a fine dust. Whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup Cheeto dust, the remaining 1 tablespoon each garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, 2 teaspoons cayenne and 2 tablespoons salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the egg, remaining 1 cup buttermilk and 3 tablespoons hot sauce in another medium bowl. 

Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge the cutlets in the flour mixture, turning to coat and packing into crevices. Shake to remove excess and return the cutlets to the baking sheet. Dip chicken into buttermilk mixture, allow excess to drip off, then pack flour mixture firmly onto chicken. Gently shake off excess. 

Arrange the breaded cutlets on a baking sheet, down the center, side-by-side (its ok if they touch). Tear off an 18-inch-long piece of aluminum foil, place 2 wooden spoons, handle-ends touching, down the length of the foil. Fold the foil in half lengthwise over the spoons to cover. Place the foil-covered spoons over the cutlets so that the handles are in the center of the cutlets and the foil covers half of each. Fold the uncovered half of each cutlet over the foil-covered spoon handles to form "taco shells." Freeze until the cutlets are very firm and hold their taco-shape, at least 1 hour up to 8 hours. 

Fill a large heavy pot, fitted with a deep fry thermometer halfway with oil. Heat over medium-high heat until 350 degrees F. Working in 2 batches, fry the chicken, turning often and adjusting the heat to maintain the temperature, until deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a wire rack set over paper towels to drain.

Fill the chicken shells with lettuce, tomato and cheese. Drizzle with both sauces and serve more on the side.  

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