I love lunch.
In fact, the first words my edit assist and I exchange every day are, “What’s for lunch?”.
I look forward to it every single day.
And that is mostly because where I work, we are lucky enough to have a fabulous chef named Rose who offers us lunch every day. She makes things like bbq salmon, chicken kabobs and pot stickers. Last week, Rose fed me turkey chili with cornbread, homemade pizza, tilapia in parchment paper with steamed veggies & brown rice, and some crazy good chicken with olives over couscous. Every Friday is sandwich day with homemade bread. There is also homemade soup and a great salad bar.
All this for $6!
A few weeks ago Rose made baked panko crusted chicken tenders with three types of dipping sauce. They were absolutely delicious. Crispy crunchy on the outside, and juicy on the inside. The panko was a thicker breading than the ordinary breadcrumbs that I’m used to, yet light.
And they were baked! I bread chicken breasts all the time (with breadcrumbs), but I sauté them in olive oil, never bake them like this. And, I’ve never used panko before. Panko has always seemed sort of exotic to me. It’s one of those intimidating things that I’ve just never had the courage to experiment with, until now.
If you’re wondering what panko is exactly, I was too, so I did a little research.
Wikipedia says that panko is a variety of flaky breadcrumb 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 found in Western cuisine.
Oh yes it does! Like I said, it seems to be a thicker breading, and airier indeed. Nice! You can buy it at your local grocery store right next to the breadcrumbs.
So after devouring Rose’s chicken tenders for lunch that day, I had to try making them myself. As I mentioned here, I try to cook as healthy as possible (my take on healthy anyway) most of the time, and then splurge every once in a while. I knew Hadley would love these.
And I knew this because kids think that a breaded piece of boneless chicken is kid-food. A chicken nugget. A chicken finger. A chicken tender. You know the ones… those deep-fried-reconstitued-chicken-parts-mixed-with-God-only-knows-what that are offered on restaurant menus and in every frozen food section.
Yes, my almost 10-year old child has eaten a few or more of these along the way, but that came to an abrupt halt, thanks to my dear friend Jamie Oliver. OK, so I’ve never met him, but I love him as you may remember from this and that, (again, sorry about that pizza dough, Jamie!) and I know we’d make great friends if given half a chance.
For those of you who haven’t seen Jamie’s breakdown of a chicken nugget on his “Food Revolution”, it’s pretty upsetting. I had it linked here at one point so you could have a look for yourself, but unfortunately they took it down. Anyway, my point is…it’s terrible stuff. You can make it fresh easily, so let’s do that instead.
As I said, I was inspired by the lovely and talented Rose to attempt to make her baked panko crusted (all chicken!) chicken tenders. I made them last week for Hadley and our friend Katherine, along with those yummy potatoes with horseradish sauce, that I told you about here.
I picked up a pound of chicken tenders at my grocery store that were previously sliced for me at the meat counter, and some panko.
Since I didn’t have a recipe, I had to wing it. I seasoned the Panko with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Now here is the not so great news. They turned out………..just OK.
The chicken itself was juicy, but the panko was a bit dry and flavorless. And they sort of tasted……well, baked. I was less than thrilled. Rose’s were so much better! As I said, she is a chef, and everything she makes is delicious in that chef-sort-of-way, but still. I thought they would have turned out better.
Regardless, the were good enough for us that night. And we had 4 types of dipping sauce to take care of that bland business: Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ sauce, homemade honey-mustard, ranch dressing, and good ol’ ketchup. I also slathered Sriracha sauce on mine. Speaking of Sriracha, my friend Eda makes a homemade version of this rooster sauce that I suggest you check out here. I haven’t made it yet, but it’s on my soon-to-try list. She was runner-up in the Best Condiment contest over at Food52. Runner up on her first try, and that is some stiff competition over there. Eda, you ROCK! Unfortunately, Dead Guy Sauce won. Still, I am very proud of her.
Anyway, Hadley and Katherine loved the chicken tenders. Mostly because they dunked and dipped them in so much sauce, it really didn’t matter what they tasted like. They gobbled them right up, and for me, that meant they were a success!
But still, I wanted to really like them myself and share them with you.
Last week, as I stood in the lunch line piling my plate high with homemade hummus and pita chips, I mentioned my breaded-panko-chicken-tender-blandness to Rose. I told her about my blog and she seemed excited and mentioned that she had been thinking about getting involved with just this sort-of-thing herself! Imagine, Rose (a chef), was actually asking me questions about food blogging.
I really hope she joins the food-blogging community. I, for one, know she will be a very valuable addition!
Rose filled me in on a little chef secret about panko that I’m now going to share with you. You mix some oil right into the panko before breading them. I never would have thought of that. She said this is what gets them crispy crunchy. She also said to make sure to use enough garlic and salt. OK, then. I upped my garlic and salt and oiled my panko.
I made them again this week and can I just say……………so much yummier!
I also threw in some fresh parsley, because we all know by now how much I love that stuff. They were crispy-crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. And now they had the flavor I was missing last time.
Thank you Rose!
I can now pass this not only healthy, but tasty, baked panko crusted chicken tender recipe on to you.
My friend Jamie would be so proud.
Baked Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders
Inspired by Chef Rose
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1 ½ cups panko
1 handful of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for baking
Preheat oven to 350º. Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with foil and coating it with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Set aside.
In a small bowl, add the flour and season with a little salt and black pepper. Lightly beat the eggs in another shallow dish. Mix the panko with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 3rd shallow dish. Add the parsley, garlic powder, salt (1 teasp) and pepper to the panko.
Dredge chicken tenders in the flour to coat, shaking off any excess flour. Dip the floured tenders into the egg and then coat them with the panko mixture. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet.
Repeat with the remaining strips.
Bake for 12 -15 minutes, or until golden brown, flipping once after a few minutes. Sprinkle them with a few pinches of salt, and serve with an assortment of fun dipping sauces.