Looking for a yummy snack to enjoy during the big game this weekend? I think these little wonders are just what you’re looking for. So incredibly easy, and – can it be? – a bit on the healthy side, since they use just a small amount of oil to get that nice crispiness in the oven. They would be fun to make with kids, though you may want to have them wear disposable gloves, because of the risks associated with handling raw chicken.
You can get started the day before, if you like, or just a few hours ahead of time. The texture of the chicken will improve as it is marinated in the buttermik and 24 hours is ideal. If that doesn’t work for you, try to at least get the chicken in the buttermilk bath a couple hours before getting started with the rest of the recipe.
To begin, gently flatten skinless, boneless chicken breasts, that have been trimmed of any fat and membranes. I like to use a French rolling pin, and put the chicken inside a sturdy ziplock bag. Don’t seal the bag all the way though or it might pop along a seam. You want to ensure the thickness is pretty uniform, ensuring that the tenders will cook evenly, so firmly pound them with the rolling pin.Cut the breasts into chunks – usually, you will get 8 pieces.Use a fairly shallow dish to marinate the tenders in buttermilk. For these two breasts, I used about 1/2 cup of butterrmilk, 1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Use what ever seasonings you like, but remember the bread crumbs will be seasoned as well. If you are making a lot of chicken, you can use a ziplock bag for this step, turning the bag a few times over the course of the 24 hours.Cover the dish and marinate in the refrigerator, up to 24 hours.Then, season the bread crumbs. [this actually ended up being a bit more than I needed, but I keep the leftovers in the freezer] About a cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup coarse cornmeal, and around a teaspoon each salt, granulated garlic powder, onion powder, parsely, oregano, cumin, chipotle chili powder and smoked paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. These ingredients are very flexible – use what you have and enjoy. The chipotle chili powder is pretty spicy compared to a typical grocery store chili powder, so keep in mind the heat tolerance of the people you are feeding. And if you can’t find chipotle chili powder, the regular kind will work; you just won’t have the smokiness and extra little kick.Mix all of the breading ingredients together with a fork, and have the marinated chicken alongside.It is a good idea to give the chicken tenders 30 to 60 minutes to get the coating nicely set. Set up your sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper, and setting a rack inside. The rack will allow the coating to set without getting soggy on the botttom.Take each piece of chicken out of the marinade and shake off the excess, then lay it in the crumbs. Use a spoon to get the crumbs on all surfaces, and gently press them in. Turn over gently and make sure the other side is evenly covered as well. Carefully lay the pieces on the rack. You can actually leave these out of the fridge for up to an hour. They are starting out nice and cold from being marinated and they will be thoroughly cooked. If that idea bothers you, put them in the fridge, though finding room for that size pan may be difficult.When it’s time to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully take the rack off the sheet pan and pick up the parchment paper so that you can shake off the crumbs which will burn if you leave them. Replace the parchment paper. Drizzle oil on the top of each tender and place that side down on the sheet. Drizzle the tops as well.Put the pan on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Use tongs to turn over each tender to brown the other side. In about 6 minutes, check to make sure the pieces are nicely firm and all sides are well browned. If not, return to the oven for another 2 or 3 minutes.Serve right away, with salsa, guacamole and sour cream for dipping.And don’t forget to enjoy the game!