Better Baked Chicken Fingers

19 Sep

My kids have a teensy bit of a chicken fingers (nuggets, tenders, whatever) obsession. I’ll be honest with you–I don’t get it. We eat a lot of chicken around here, and they’ve been to enough restaurants to understand that there’s not usually a toy lurking under the napkin (and we eat fast food about three or four times a year, max), so it’s not a bribery thing. Maybe it’s the complete lack of fried chicken in their worlds–I grew up eating Kentucky Fried once a week or so at my grandmother’s house and am kind of permanently fried-poultried out as a result.

Huh.

My poor deprived kids.

Right.

Anyway, the first thing they generally want to order when we eat out is chicken fingers, and one of my dear friends is a hero in their eyes because she almost aways has them on the table when we dine with her family.

Try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to buy the nuggets in my grocery store freezer. Have you ever read the labels on those things? Y’all, I can’t pronounce half that stuff, much less explain what it’s all doing in a bag of chicken. We don’t really fry around here (nothing against it, but it trashes my stove with grease and that breaks my heart; I really love my stove), and the usual bread-and-bake recipes are both lacking in the crunch department and, to be honest, not very tasty.

Enter Panko.

Panko are Japanese-style bread crumbs. They’re much larger and dryer than regular bread crumbs, which translates into lots of crunch even when you use less (which you generally will), and thankfully, are starting to appear on the shelf right next to their more ordinary brothers and sisters, even in my sad excuse of a Soviet-esque grocery store.

I threw this together over the weekend on a whim, after thinking a bit about my garlic bread spice mix and wondering how those same flavors (which are yummy!) might translate to chicken. The answer?

Cleaned plates without my hounding the short people to just eat already. Success.

This technique, by the way, would be equally great on fish; I plan to try it on some rockfish later this week and think baked fish sticks will be just as popular as these chicken fingers were. Amounts are approximate, as I was literally tossing together this and that; taste the mixture on your fingertip until it seems good to you.

Last hint: Cut the chicken across the grain (cut the breasts across the short side instead of down the long side) for the most tender fingers out of the oven. Cutting through all those fibers makes for some soft, yummy meat inside its crunchy crust.

Enough from me. Give this a go–you’ll need

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin across the grain

2 eggs, beaten

About a cup of Panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon of paprika (sweet if you have a choice)

1 tablespoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt (I use No-Salt substitute and recommend it)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees and either line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (yes, I said parchment paper–it doesn’t stick) or spray it with nonstick spray.

Toss together your Panko, garlic powder, paprika, and salt in a bowl with a fork. Arrange your workspace in an assembly line: chicken, egg, breadcrumb mixture, cookie sheet.

Dip each piece of chicken in the egg and then roll it in the breadcrumb mixture to coat. Lay them on the cookie sheet so they don’t touch. Bake them about 15 minutes or until they’re cooked through. Enjoy

Note: I used two chicken breasts because this does not reheat well–the crumbs lose their crunch. Adjust up or down as needed, but I don’t recommend making more of these than you’ll eat in one sitting.

 

 

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One Response to “Better Baked Chicken Fingers”

  1. Lisa Hayes Lane September 19, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I do something similar, but use ranch dressing instead of eggs. (Did I get that from you? I can’t remember.)

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