Since we started introducing solid foods to the munchkin about a year ago, she has pretty much been a vegetarian. She was quick to like fruits, grains, dairy, and even eggs, but somehow none of the ways I prepared meat seemed to work for her. Until I found this recipe for Chicken Teriyaki, which she gobbled up, but only if the chicken was cut into pieces barely bigger than the grains of rice it was mixed with! And then recently, something changed, and she started becoming more open to different kinds of chicken, whether it be bigger pieces of the same Chicken Teriyaki, some chicken from a salad I ordered out, or chicken parmesan at an italian restaurant. The theme seemed to be chicken was ok as long as it was really moist from a sauce or breading – fair enough!
So recently, I decided to try making some breaded chicken at home to see if she would really eat it, and boy did she – the first night she ate an entire chicken tender, which is quite a bit for a little munchkin! I didn’t do anything too fancy here; just followed a basic process for breading chicken and baking it in the oven. The only thing I did to make it more kid friendly was to cut my chicken breasts into strips to make them like tenders, even though I wasn’t just using the tender from the breast. This helped with portioning for the munchkin, and had the added benefit of a higher breading to chicken ratio, but you could easily do the same thing with whole breasts – just adjust the cooking time accordingly. You can also season your breadcrumbs however you want – I really like romano cheese and basil, but you could easily skip the cheese and use whatever seasoning makes you happy.
I have to apologize in advance that the recipe may not be exactly right – I was improvising quite a bit and didn’t pay attention to exact measurements, so please adjust the amounts as needed for your taste. In the mean time I thought I’d share the basic idea and I will update if necessary the next time I make these!
Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders
1 lb chicken tenders, or boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup plain panko or other dried breadcrumbs (please read ingredients here and find a brand that doesn’t include partially hydrogenated oils! Whole foods and Trader Joes both have good options)
2 tablespoons romano or parmesan cheese
Dried basil (enough so that it is visible throughout breadcrumb mixture)
Pinch of salt
Olive or canola oil spray
Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with foil. Spray baking sheet generously with oil.
Prepare 3 wide, shallow dishes (I used pasta bowls) as follows: the first with flour, the second with egg beaten with a splash of water, and the third with breadcrumbs mixed with seasonings (in my case, cheese, basil, and salt). Coat each piece of chicken with the flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip into the egg mixture, and finally into the breadcrumbs, ensuring that each piece is completely covered. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Once all of the chicken is on the baking sheet, spray generously with oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through (it should be firm to the touch and easily pierced with a fork). Try not to overbake! Juicy with a very slight pink tinge is ok as long as you can see the fibers of the chicken are cooked and no longer has any raw texture when cut open.
Serve with the dipping sauce of your choosing – tomato sauce, ketchup, or bbq sauce would all work!