Chicken Fingers Good, No Chicken Fingers Bad

When I was a kid, my mom used to buy me frozen, fryable chicken fingers from Costco.  I remember them well.  They were Tyson and came packaged in a pink bag.  It was my after school snack before dinner was ready.  She would also make some the night before a school day, cut them into the size of chicken nuggets, and pack them for my lunch the next day.  While my classmates had pb&j, tuna sandwiches, or lunchables, I was eating chicken nuggets with ketchup for lunch.  I, of course, would share, but with a limited supply, sometimes my classmates had to fight for them.

photo (9) My classmates even wrote about my chicken in my yearbook (2001)…

photo (7) photo (8)

In high school, I started to get a little fancy with the chicken fingers and made them into chicken cutlet sandwiches with mayo on kaiser rolls.  Believe it or not, my classmates in high school would buy them from me for $5 each!  Imagine a 16-year old selling sandwiches like a food truck in the cafeteria.  Anyway, it was much better than the food the lunch ladies would serve us.

I continued to buy the frozen chicken tenders up until last year.  Even though they were processed food, they were just convenient and also sort of nostalgic for me, but then I realized, hello, I could make this!  The real thing tastes even better than the frozen kind, and I still get that same feeling of nostalgia when I eat/serve them.

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Chicken Fingers

Ingredients:

2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin strips
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten and seasoned with pepper
1 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Heat oil in a sauce pan or wok shaped pan over medium-high heat.  In a shallow bowl, season breadcrumbs with salt to taste.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic powder and flour.  Toss chicken in flour mixture; each strip should be lightly coated.  Individually dip each chicken strip in egg, coating evenly.  Dip chicken in breadcrumbs, coating evenly.  When oil is hot enough, cook chicken for about 10 minutes until all sides are golden brown.  When cooked, transfer chicken to a plate cover with a paper towel in order to absorb excess oil.  Cool for 3 minutes.  Serve with ketchup or “fancy sauce” (ketchup + mayonnaise).

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Tips:
– To avoid messy fingers, designate a “wet hand” and a “dry hand.”  The wet hand will transfer the chicken from bowl to bowl, and the “dry hand” will be in charge of sprinkling the breadcrumbs over the chicken.  You can also use a tong to transfer the chicken from station to station, but using your hands is so much easier. 🙂
– To test out the heat of the oil, throw a dash of breadcrumbs in the pan.  The breadcrumbs will start to crackle (and not sink to the bottom of the pan) when the oil is hot enough.

Chicken Cutlet and Mozzarella Sandwich

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Ingredients:

1-2 chicken fingers
fresh mozzarella, 1 half-inch slice
1 tomato slice
olive oil for drizzling
pepper, to taste
ciabatta roll, or any desired bread roll

Slice bread roll in half.  Drizzle some olive oil on inside part of bread roll.  Season with a dash of pepper.  Lightly toast — no goldening.   Place mozzarella first on bread.  Season with more olive oil and pepper, if desired.  Assemble sandwich with the tomato and chicken.  Serve with roasted garlic rosemary baby potatoes (recipe follows).

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary

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Ingredients:

5 baby golden potatoes, sliced in half
1 tsp. rosemary, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss ingredients together then transfer to a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes or until outside starts to brown and potato is tender on the inside.

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