Chicken Fingers

SFS_Chicken Fingers_007

MAKES 16 FINGERS 
TO PREP 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES 
STORE UP TO 1 MONTH 
TO FINISH 45 MINUTES

Why This Recipe Works: When we looked at the ingredient list on prepackaged chicken fingers, we were surprised to discover so many preservatives we couldn’t pronounce. We liked the idea of having something as simple and adaptable as chicken fingers on hand, so we wondered if we could stock our freezer with kid-friendly, great-tasting chicken fingers with minimal effort. The freezer has a drying effect on food, and lean chicken breast is no exception. We had a hunch that all those preservatives were helping to keep the chicken moist during the reheat, so we started by thinking about how to keep the chicken as moist as possible. Brining turned out to be the best solution: It makes the chicken very juicy so it doesn’t dry out as it cooks. To give our chicken fingers great flavor, we added a dash of Worcestershire sauce to the brine and onion and garlic powder to the breading. To get a crisp coating on our chicken even after reheating, we swapped traditional bread crumbs for ultracrisp panko bread crumbs and tried a few different cooking techniques. Deep-frying the chicken fingers was a lot of work for little payoff. Next, we tried to mimic frying by tossing the breading with oil and baking the chicken, but on the reheat the chicken was dry and the coating was sandy. Sautéing turned out to be the winning technique: By the time the breading fried up supercrisp and golden, the chicken was cooked through but still tender and moist, and we avoided all the mess and waste of deep frying. These chicken fingers were good enough to please kids and adults alike.

Don’t brine the chicken for longer than 30 minutes or it will be too salty.

Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
3 large eggs
2 cups panko bread crumbs, toasted
3/4 cup vegetable oil

TO PREP

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon salt and Worcestershire in 2 cups cold water in large bowl. Submerge chicken in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.


2. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Combine flour, onion powder, granulated garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in second shallow dish. Spread panko in third shallow dish. Working in batches, dredge chicken in flour mixture, dip in eggs, then coat with panko, pressing gently to adhere; transfer to large plate.

3. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Heat 1/4 cup oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Lay one-third of chicken in skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to prepared rack and wipe out skillet. Repeat shallow frying twice more with remaining oil and chicken. Let chicken cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

TO STORE

4. Transfer cooled chicken fingers to zipper-lock freezer bags, press out air, and seal. Freeze for up to 1 month. (Do not thaw before reheating.)

TO FINISH AND SERVE

5. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken fingers on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and bake until heated through and crisp, about 30 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through baking. Serve.

Brine the Chicken

STP_ChickenFingers_Brine_01-800

To protect the chicken for our chicken fingers from ­drying out in the freezer, we started by ­cutting boneless, skinless chicken breasts into large strips, rather than small nuggets. To further ensure juiciness, we brined the chicken before breading it; adding some Worcestershire sauce to the brine gave the chicken even more meaty flavor.


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