On today’s menu: chicken tenders! But not the janky diner chicken tenders you ate by the bucketful when you were a teenager (if you were anything like me). OK, those chicken tenders were actually pretty good a lot of the time – except when they didn’t deep fry them thoroughly enough and they were still kind of cold in the middle. Then yuck. But these chicken tenders are not yuck and are much more healthful, because for one, they are gluten-free – yay! The “breading” is made from raw almonds and is really, really quick and easy to make.
This was my first time using a substitute to breadcrumbs to batter chicken with, and I was afraid it would not taste as good as the real deal. But you know what? It did! I was surprised how breadcrumb-y the almond crumbs tasted when the tenders were fried. It’s a great alternative for those who need to eliminate gluten from their diets or who simply want to cut carbs.
Speaking of cutting things from one’s diet, if you’re familiar with my recipe posts, you may be surprised to see me featuring a meat dish. I realized recently that I have few recipes that feature meat on this blog, which is sort of crazy, because I’m definitely an omnivore. But I do cook vegetarian and vegan quite a bit. As much as I’d like to take credit for it as being a conscious choice, me being all gallant and trying to help the planet by consuming less livestock, which take so much more energy and resources to produce than plant crops do, it’s really not something I do deliberately. It just so happens that I enjoy plant-based meals and often find them easier to cook, likely because the whole remembering to take a frozen block of meat out of the freezer ahead of time and letting it thaw in the fridge for a day or two is then out of the equation. But lately, I’ve been craving meat, to the point where I’m more than happy to manage frozen blocks of it and to hack up slimy chicken breasts. (Not my favorite thing, handling poultry. I’m more of a beef/pork woman.) It must be this dead-of-winter, conserve-heat-or-turn-into-a-popsicle phase we are currently in that is making my omnivore animal instincts come out. Whatever it is, I am happy for it, because it also led me to create this simple but delicious honey dipping sauce, with tangy lime juice and a hint of heat from cayenne pepper – yum!
A note about the recipe: you will see that I mention using an egg or some other alternatives to bind the breadcrumbs to the chicken. This is because I am admittedly someone who does not like the taste of eggs at all and is disproportionately grossed out by the prospect of using them in any way where even the slightest taste of them could be at all obvious to me (basically, in any use that doesn’t completely hide them within a baked good). If you are not like me, using a wash of beaten eggs to dip the chicken tenders in to allow the breading to stick more easily to them would be the most obvious and likely wisest choice. However, in case you are like me and are repulsed by the use of eggs (sorry, eggs!), I’ve included some alternative ideas that were recommended for this purpose by The Bible, a.k.a. The Kitchn (love that site!): milk, yogurt, and butter. While I haven’t tried any of these egg wash-alternatives myself, I trust that they are sound options because The Kitchn knows what’s up. I also included water as a choice because it’s one I’ve used for this purpose in the past; it’s worked decently for me, but some of the other ideas may be more effective in influencing a thick crumb coating. So what did I use as an egg wash-alternative for this recipe if I didn’t use one of these ideas? I attempted to use a flax egg (the vegan alternative to an egg made with ground flax seed and water), and it was pretty much a debacle. Flax eggs are way too thick and sticky to use for this purpose, in my opinion. I ended up giving up and simply coating the chicken without any wash, and because it was wet, the crumbs stuck pretty well. But as you may deduce from the photos, the coating is not super-thick. So next time I will be trying one of the proposed alternatives.
-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
-1-2 eggs or another alternative to use for binding, such as milk, yogurt, butter, or water
-Grapeseed oil or another oil that has a high smoke-point and is good for frying
For bread crumbs:
-1 cup raw almonds
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
For dipping sauce:
-1/2 cup honey
-Juice of 1/2 lime
-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
In a food processor, pulse the raw almonds until they achieve a breadcrumb-like consistency (this won’t take long). Mix in a larger, shallow bowl with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You have your crumbs!
Cut the chicken breasts into tender-like strips (as you can see, some of mine were quite thick, but an inch or so wide is ideal). One by one, dip the chicken pieces into the egg wash or egg wash-alternative and then roll them in the almond crumbs so that they are completely coated. Then place the chicken tenders into a pan coated with two tablespoons of the cooking oil. Cook on medium-high heat for three to four minutes on each side, or until the chicken appears fully cooked when pierced with a knife (pink is gone, juices run clear). Place the finished tenders onto a place covered with several layers of paper towel. Because of the amount of chicken tenders produced (about 12 or so depending on the size they are cut), you will likely need to either cook them in batches or in two pans going at once, per your preference.
Once the chicken tenders are finished cooking, mix the honey, lime juice, and cayenne pepper to make your sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Then dip away! Makes three to four servings.
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