Monday, March 29, 2010
Chicken Strips (or nuggets) and macaroni and cheese. How many times has this combo found it's way onto your dinner table in the past few months? If you've got little ones, I'd wager that this kid pleasing dinner has made an appearance at least once or twice. Did you know that in just about the same amount of time, (and with a few more dirty dishes) you can make both chicken strips and mac n' cheese from scratch, rather than from the box? That's the motivation for cooking from the box, right? We want to save time! Who doesn't? There's nothing wrong with striving for effeciency. These days, we're all busy people. This chicken strip recipe uses just 4 ingredients: chicken breast, egg, panko, and dill. You also need olive oil for frying and salt and pepper to season...so I guess that makes for 7 ingredients. To compare these to the store bought, boxed, freezer versions of Chicken Tenders, I grabbed a box from my parent's freezer tonight. At this minute, I am holding that box of high quality, name brand, chicken breast tenderloins in my hand. The box boasts: 100% all natural ingredients. 0g Trans Fat. Made with White Meat. NO Preservatives. As far as freezer chicken strips go, these are top notch. But here's the thing, I just counted the ingredients...there were over 15 if you count the oil used for frying. Salt was listed 3 times. And the store brand are deep fried (albeit in vegetable oil) rather than pan-fried (as in not immersed) in olive oil.
Look, I'm not saying that I never feed my family processed food, because sometimes I do. And I'm not criticizing anyone that slaps a freezer pizza down on the table a couple of times a week because their child is just "too picky for words" and that's all they want to eat OR because you are too tired to even fathom cooking dinner. I get that. I once read another blogger describe the period of her life when her children were young as the "Mac n' cheese tunnel". I get that too. What I am saying is that when I can cook from scratch for the same amount of time and money, I will. And that's why I'm so glad that I found this chicken strip recipe.
Last week on the Krista's Kitchen Facebook page I threw down a "Quick Fire Challenge". I wrote: I thawed too much chicken breast. Please submit your favorite recipe for boneless skinless chicken breast as a comment here. Between 5 and 9 pm on that day, I got 9 delicious, new chicken recipes. I picked this one as the winner. Thank you to Jill Jordan for submitting this recipe for "Crispy Herbed Chicken Strips". These were yummy!
I especially liked the crispy finish on these. Credit goes to the panko bread crumbs. Panko is a variety of flaky bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine as a crunchy coating for fried foods. Panko is made from bread without crusts, and it has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breading. I love this stuff for creating a crispy breading, without the need for deep frying.
Here's my breading station. Slice 3-4 chicken breasts into wide strips and season with salt and pepper. Beat an egg in a shallow dish. Pour the panko into a separate dish and mix with 1/4 cup of chopped dill. There's no dill in the picture below. I made one batch without dill, just in case the kiddos objected to the addition of this herb to these crowd-pleasing chicken tenders.
Just dip the chicken into the egg first.
Then give it a roll in the panko.
And transfer into a skillet heated with olive oil. Cook over medium heat until golden and the meat is cooked through. These brown up beautifully!
After the first batch of "plain" chicken strips, I added the dill to the breading. Loved this! The dill was subtle, yet such a nice little twist on regular chicken tenders.
This dinner was wonderful! Jill recommends to serve these with cucumber spears and ranch dressing. No problem with my family...they LOVE ranch dressing. It's their favorite condiment. It never occurred to me to serve cucumber spears before. They were a hit! What a great way to get kids to eat a vegetable. Plus, we had a little de-constructed pickle action going on...the dill in the chicken...the raw cucumber alongside. It was brilliant!
As for the mac n' cheese, I made it from scratch on my stovetop...in just minutes! You can read all about how I make mac n' cheese right HERE. This time I cut the recipe in half, and went simple. No onions or extra stir-ins, just hot, cooked pasta, butter, flour, skim milk, cheddar cheese, and a little salt and pepper.
Jill's Crispy Herbed Chicken Strips
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
1 egg, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup dill, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Cut 3-4 chicken breasts into wide strips; season with salt & pepper. Dip into beaten egg, then a mixture of 2 cups panko bread crumbs and 1/4 cup chopped dill. In batches, cook the strips in 1/2 inch of olive oil over medium heat until golden & meat is cooked through. Serve with ranch dressing and cucumber spears.