Who among us hasn’t, when confronted with a menu filled with a dizzying array of dishes, including a fresh-foraged locally-sourced braised pork shank with a fair-trade pesticide-free basil/pomegranite reduction, cast a wistful eye towards the kids’ menu, and wished for simpler times? Whether you are an actual child, or have simply rendered your brain childlike after an evening of overindulgence, it’s hard to deny the draw of a properly made breaded, fried chicken finger.
You can use any kind of breadcrumbs you like, including packaged seasoned Italian-style breadcrumbs, or flaky Japanese panko-style breadcrumbs for extra crunch. When I’m going for comfort food, however, I tend to go whole-hog, which is why I use crushed “Hot ‘n’ Spicy” Cheez-It snack crackers. You can choose to either bake or fry these chicken fingers, but my sense is that if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t have a problem with coating fried chicken in crushed Cheez-Its, that’s not going to be any choice at all. The baked version may be marginally better for you, but the fried version is vastly superior. Go for it.
Spicy Cheez-It Chicken Fingers
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken tenders
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2-3 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
- 2 cups crushed Hot ‘n’ Spicy Cheez-Its, crackers, or breadcrumbs
- Salt and black pepper
- Vegetable oil (optional)
Season the chicken geerously with salt and pepper.
Set up your dredging station. In a shallow dish, season the flour with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. In a second shallow dish, beat the eggs, along with the milk and hot sauce. In a third shallow dish, place the crushed crackers or breadcrumbs.
Dredge the chicken tenders in the seasoned flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Dip into the egg, and finally, coat with crackers or breadcrumbs.
Baked version: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the breaded chicken tenders onto a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Flip chicken tenders, and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Fried version: Heat an inch of vegetable oil over medium heat until small bubbles begin to appear in the oil. Add chicken tenders a few at a time, and cook until golden brown, about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Adapted from a recipe on Serious Eats; Makes 1-1/2 cups of dressing
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
In a bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, and mayonnaise. Add parsley, chives, dill, lemon juice, mustard, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Sti well to combine. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least one hour before using. Stores up to one week in the refrigerator.