If I know you as well as I think I do–which is technically speaking not at all–then you can’t live without a crispy chicken finger. The basis of this judgment has been drawn from my conclusion that all living, breathing organisms have innate tendencies to seek three very crucial things: water, air, and buffalo chicken.
I draw all types of scientific conclusions.
Next time I’ll tell you about the theory of relativity as illustrated through cupcakes.
But today, we turn our bright eyes to the chicken finger. The crisp-crusted, moist and tender-middled, fiery red sauce-slathered, the someone-get-me-a-bib-and-for-cryin’-out-loud-where’s-the-damn-blue-cheese-dip?!?…chicken finger.
Here’s my methodology: Lots of healthy chicken tenders are baked. I get that. I appreciate that. And I love comfort food makeovers. Really I do.
But I’ve never bitten into a baked tender that altogether satisfied my intense cravings for foods that end in cutesy words like stix and dippers, and generally any soul-soothing noshable at a pub.
So I don’t want to solely bake these chicken fingers. But I don’t want to fully fry them either. What I’ve discovered is the magic of partially pan-frying. To do this, I cook the chicken a little more than halfway on the stove top in a modest amount of oil because I want a browned and crisped crust, but don’t necessarily want them to be drenched in oil, as tempting as that may be. The reason I don’t cook them completely in the pan is because that would require them staying in the hot pan for a lengthy amount of time, and unless I use a lot of oil, the fingers have a tendency to burn.
The beauty is that I’m still developing that golden brown, faintly greasy crust, and the tenders stay on the healthier side of things. Searing the breading on both sides allows me to lock in the moisture of the bird while still developing a crunchy coating. I then finish them in the oven so that they cook through. And then I dunk them in spicy, orange-hued hot sauce and dip them in creamy, cool blue cheese dressing.
Just come over and I’ll make you some. We’ll watch Bill Nye and talk science.
Crispy Buffalo Chicken
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg beaten with 2 TBSP hot sauce
2/3 cup dried bread crumbs
2 TBSP steak seasoning (or any all-purpose blend of pepper and salt)
3-4 TBSP oil ( I used olive)
1/2-3/4 cup hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot or Texas Pete)
Preheat your oven to 400° F. Line up three small bowls and fill them in this order- first with the flour, the second with the egg mixture, and the third with the seasoned bread crumbs.
Dredge each tenderloin first in the flour (you only need a light dusting- shake off excess), then dip into the egg bath, then toss in the bread crumb mixture, pressing so that crumbs adhere to all sides. Put on a large plate and repeat the dredging process with the remaining tenderloins.
In a large frying pan set over medium-high heat, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. Add half of the coated tenderloins , spacing them evenly. You don’t want to overcrowd your pan. Cook for about 4 minutes, undisturbed, until they develop a nice crispy crust on one side. Flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining half of the tenderloins.
Put the chicken on a wire cooling rack set atop a baking sheet that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Fill a shallow bowl with the hot sauce. Dip each tender into the hot sauce, just to quickly coat. Set the pieces back on the wire rack until you have finished coating all the chicken. Serve immediately with blue cheese dressing for dipping and a side of celery sticks.