I have to say it up front: Chicken grosses me out.
I don’t particularly like working with it raw, I find it boring to eat, and the whole factory chicken thing makes me kind of sick.
There are exceptions of course; chicken soup (sopa de pollo) from the Dominican 4 Restaurant in Farmingdale could make a dead man…resuscitate, shall we say. My dad grills chicken in any number of delicious ways and he also rolls it up with sundried tomatoes and other delicious stuff and bakes it, all with irresistable results. And the ultimate: is there anything lovelier or more civilized on a cold day than a roast chicken with winter vegetables?
Fighting chicken is a useless battle. People love chicken. The average per capita consumption of chicken in the U.S. is somewhere between 60 and 90 lbs per year depending on which graph you are looking at. If you entertain, you probably have to serve chicken at some point.
Kids also like chicken. They eat pounds of chicken nuggets per year (which I assume counts on “consumption of chicken” graphs, although by the looks of a lot of these “chicken” nuggets, there is very little chicken involved; I believe what they call chicken “tenders” are actual chicken, not ground up bits with other ground up stuff).
I have a kid and like all kids whose parents let them watch T.V., he is subject to the relentless McNugget marketing assault . But before I surrender the chicken nugget thing to BK and Mickie D’s, I am trying to romance my son’s texture and flavor palate with something that actually resembles food.
I have two things on my side:
1) that same Dominican 4 Restaurant in Farmingdale and their chicharrones de pollo (fried chicken strips) that are so awesome and delicious that my English-dominant son will say whole paragraphs in Spanish to waitresses he has never met before to make sure he gets them.
And 2) when I make the following oven-baked chicken fingers at home, Leandro gets to hammer the hell out of the chicken breasts before I bread them!
I freeze most of them for good packed lunches (if your daycare or school will re-heat). And to help my chicken aversion, I buy the organic chicken three 1-lb packs at Costco.
Oven-baked Chicken Tenders
2 cups nonfat plain yogurt (you can use buttermilk, but since you can’t buy buttermilk in small containers and I don’t drink it or use it for much else, I substitute yogurt)
2 Tbs mustard
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs dried oregano
2 Tbs dried parsley
2 tsp cumin
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded (under wax paper) to even thickness and cut into strips (I actually have a meat tenderizer/pounder hammer, but I have used a rolling pin and other creative methods)
2 cups breadcrumbs in a flat plate for coating
Olive oil for drizzling
Heat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with a wire rack or lightly grease a baking sheet/al-foil. Mix yogurt and spices in a nonreactive dish. Dip chicken in wet mixture, then coat in breadcrumbs.
Transfer to baking sheet. Drizzle with oil then bake in oven until cooked – 20 minutes (less if you really pounded the chicken). If you use a rack, you don’t have to turn. If you are cooking directly on a baking sheet, turn halfway through. If it hasn’t crisped up, you may want to give it a few minutes crisping on the broiler. If you are planning to freeze and/or reheat (which you probably are, if you are doing 3 lbs!), don’t bother crisping. Serve with whatever dipping sauce you like (we do ketchup!)
Later, you can heat in the oven with tomato sauce and cheese and call it chicken parmesan!
If you are freezing, layer with wax paper.