Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pan Fried Chicken Tenders

For the first year of our marriage, I really only knew of one way to cook chicken. As long as there were no raw parts, I felt successful. See, I'm the kind of girl who loads her plate with side dishes at holiday meals--no pesky protein to get in the way of my mashed potato-ey goodness. So, chicken has generally always seemed like a safe (but bland) accompaniment to whatever else was on the plate.

My loving husband never once complained about my poultry preparation, but I eventually got tired of the-less than inspired-constancy. I even went through a phase where I would have been happy to never see another pack of chicken in my refrigerator. Common sense (and a sale on chicken breasts) won out. I read up on recipes around the internet, and cobbled together a method to make homemade chicken tenders with minimal effort and with items I almost always have on hand.

A few notes on the recipe: 
* The first few times I made this, I pounded the chicken before cutting because I could do that before taking the chicken from its food saver bag which meant less clean up. I find that that pounding the chicken tenders after cutting leads to more uniform tenders, and the resulting tenders are flatter meaning they crisp up better when you pan fry them. 
* You can buy the chicken tenders pre-cut. It costs a little more per pound of chicken, so I usually pass in favor of just cutting it myself. If there's a sale and you get the pre-cut tenders,  still pound them out. It's an extra step, but so worth it.
* I reference "Seasoning blend of your choice" in the recipe--I use a spice blend I'll be talking about next month. You can choose to add spices like cayenne for a kick, or stick to salt and pepper for a milder flavor
* I tried freezing the tenders once they were breaded and cooking them up later. They were still good, but the breading was not as crisp and it got a lot darker (because I was cooking the tenders longer). 


1/4 cup all purpose flour                      1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg                                                    2-4 tablespoons of butter
2 chicken breasts                                 1 tablespoon seasoning blend of your choice

To prepare:

1. Cut each chicken breast into 5-6 pieces (or just open your pre-cut tenders). Cover with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or a rolling pin until uniformly thin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Set up your breading station in three shallow bowls. In bowl one, mix the flour with the seasoning blend (or just salt and pepper). In bowl two beat the egg with a little water (about 1-2 teaspoons). In bowl three pour out the panko bread crumbs. I tend to eyeball the amounts of flour and panko based on the size of the chicken tenders you are starting out with.

3. Dust both sides of each tender in the flour, dip both sides in the egg wash, then roll in the panko. This can get messy! I just use the panko bowl as the resting place for the finished tenders, and push the panko to one side as you use up the bread crumbs.

4. For each batch, melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side. I have been able to fit two smaller chicken breasts-worth of tenders into one batch, and barely been able to fit two huge chicken breasts-worth into two batches. Just make sure you wipe the super brown bits out after the first batch so you don't have burnt bits attaching themselves to your second batch of tenders.

5. Serve with any dipping sauces you desire! I eat this with sides of broccoli and macaroni, because it brings out my inner child.

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