I’ve long said that if I owned a restaurant, the “kids'” menu would be nothing more than smaller portions of the regular menu. Why do people always assume that kids only eat grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers, and pizza? I find it especially puzzling when you go to an ethnic restaurant and right after the Kung Pao Chicken or Enchiladas Suizas is a cheeseburger.
This is not to say that all “kid” food is bad, of course. In fact there are few times I would turn down a grilled cheese sandwich. I just get annoyed with the label – which is precisely why I didn’t pay much attention to the “kid friendly” section in the back of my America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family cookbook for a while. But who doesn’t like chicken strips? They are well-received by adults (you should see the ratio of chicken strips and fries to anything else that comes out of our university’s cafeteria) and kids alike. And I’ll eat pretty much anything that I can bathe in buffalo sauce.
These chicken fingers use my favorite oven-baked breading method, which is toasting panko on the stovetop before dredging and baking the chicken. This ensures that the coating stays nice and crispy and is a method I’ve used many, many times. It’s probably my favorite ATK tip to date. The flour-egg-panko coating helps to ensure everything stays on and no breading falls off. These chicken fingers come together pretty quickly and don’t take very long to bake, so they make a great weeknight meal. And did I mention you can serve them with buffalo sauce?
Baked Chicken Fingers
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
2 cups panko (I used whole wheat)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1-2 large eggs*
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. freshly minced thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced diagonally into 3/4″-wide strips
Preheat oven to 475°. Place a wire rack (a cooling rack usually works) inside a rimmed baking sheet; spray the rack with cooking spray. You may need two racks/sheets, depending on the size you have.
Combine the panko and canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until golden brown.
Transfer the panko to a wide, shallow dish, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and set aside to cool. Mix the flour, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper together in a second wide and shallow dish. Place the egg(s), water, Dijon mustard and thyme in a third dish and whisk together.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture (shaking to remove excess) and then dip in the egg, coating both sides completely. Finally, place in the toasted breadcrumbs, coating completely. Transfer the chicken strip to the wire rack and repeat with all chicken.
Spray the chicken lightly with cooking spray then bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
*The original recipe calls for 3 egg whites but I didn’t want to waste the yolks and had no use for them. I used 1 egg, but had closer to 1.25 lbs. of chicken. You will probably be okay with one, but you may need 2.