Fingers, tenders, crispers, strips, nuggets… call them what you will, but a tender piece of white meat chicken wrapped in crunchy, seasoned coating is hard to pass up. There’s a reason this is a popular “kid food”: it’s easy to eat, fun to dip, and there are no bones to get in the way.
Now in general, I don’t like the concept of “kid food.” I think kids should eat what adults eat about 99% of the time. It discredits their growing taste buds to give them the same bland food all the time. But in my opinion, everyone can enjoy a chicken strip from time to time, and if you can make them in your own kitchen where you control the ingredients, all the better (and cheaper)!
Let me confess right now…. I was dreading this ninja challenge from the beginning. I get pretty neurotic about the whole raw chicken bacteria thing when I’m making it myself, but when you give two children under the age of 7 a big pile of raw chicken, well, that’s enough to keep any controlling mother up at night. But a huge part of this summer blogging adventure for me is to give up some of that control and give it to these smart and capable boys the Lord has entrusted me with. So here goes….
This is one of the few things I cook without a recipe. It’s different every time, but it is delicious every time, so I’ll do my best to share all the steps with you so if you want to try and recreate it, you sure can.
I start with two chicken breasts. Don’t be tempted to buy the already cut chicken strips. They aren’t as tasty and they are way more expensive. It will take about ten minutes to make them yourself.
We have a family of four, and we can get filled up (sometimes with leftovers) on just two chicken breasts. This is how we do it: Cut the chicken breasts crosswise so that you have four pieces of chicken. This takes some practice to get right, and I did this part myself.
To stretch the chicken even further (and make it juicy and tender), we pound it out with a meat mallet. This part was so fun for the boys!
You don’t need to pound too much, just enough to get the chicken breasts to an equal thickness of about 1/2″.
Then, the chicken breasts can be sliced lengthwise into strips. Cutting them width-wise makes for chewier bites due to the muscle fibers going the wrong way.
In addition to chicken safety, one of the lessons we focused on for this project was seasonings. I explained to the boys what the difference was between spices and seasonings, let them smell a variety of seasonings, and they chose what would go on our chicken.
You can use whatever you like at this stage! Simple salt and pepper, garlic, a seasoned salt, lemon pepper, cajun (if you want them spicy), or whatever you can come up with! A quick side note: my cooking has improved immensely since having found Penzey’s Spices several years back. Some towns are lucky enough to have a physical Penzey’s location, but I get mine via mail order. The spices and seasonings are fresh and affordable, and it has really made a difference in everything I cook with them. Plus the seasonings do not contain MSG, which is very important to me.
We laid out all the chicken strips on the cutting board, and after a generous sprinkling of kosher salt, we added our seasonings. The boys chose Penzey’s “Old World Seasoning” and “Barbecue of the Americas.”
Now came the part I was dreading the most! The breading of the chicken. I use a “wet-dry-wet” method of breading, so I dip whatever protein I’m breading first in flour, then in an egg/milk mixture, then in Panko bread crumbs (sometimes with a little fresh Parmesan cheese added with the crumbs). I was truly amazed at how well the boys did with this. In truth, as much as I love making my own chicken strips, fish sticks, etc., I really find the breading process tedious. After today’s project, I will no longer be doing this! The boys did so well, they have a forever job. For some really adorable (trust me, you don’t want to miss them) videos of the boys doing the breading, check out our Facebook page.
I suppose you could deep fry these for a true restaurant experience, but all that hot oil terrifies me so I choose to shallow fry in a little olive oil (not extra virgin, the light stuff). Just a few minutes on each side over medium to medium high heat gives you a beautiful, crunchy outside and a juicy, tender inside.
When I make this without the cooking lesson, I like to serve it with some raw veggies and the best french fries at home recipe ever from Bless this Mess. I will admit that the french fries take a lot of time, so after the emotional stress of all the raw chicken we decided to just snack on all these delicious chicken strips and call it dinner.
Really, the only negative part about this project was my broken heart as my older son asked for ketchup to dip his chicken strips in. 😉
Is there anything you’d like to see the ninjas cook? We would love your suggestions in the comments below!
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