In our family, Sunday meant family day…. a day to spend together, doing simple things that were relaxing and fun….together. It was a wonderful way to end one week and to begin the next. Now, don’t get me wrong …there were some Sundays that you would have heard a parent sternly predict,
“…we are going to have fun today, whether we enjoy ourselves or not!”
Sunday dinners were planned with careful menu consideration, ensuring that everyone would be able to spot a favourite food on the table (this was not the day to try out a new recipe). Dinner would be held at the dining room table, with the good dishes, cloth napkins, and candles. Dress code was ‘be clean and covered’ ; shoes were optional. Before dessert was presented, we would have our weekly Family Meeting…a forum to review the activities of the coming week, ensuring that everyone’s schedule had equal importance. Family Meeting, which was chaired by a different person each week, was also the place to celebrate recent successes and accomplishments, and to solve issues that may have arisen. I recall son Kent, age 3, taking on the role as Family Meeting Leader with great seriousness, asking each of us, “Do you have any good problems today?”
Also on the agenda of Family Meeting was planning the week’s menus. Everyone had a chance to select a main dish and a side that would be prepared during that week. Odd and interesting suggestions and combinations were often presented… and all submissions were honoured. One of the most popular choices from any one of us would be Chicken Fingers and Fries. Back in the day, I know that I relied on the freezer section of the grocery store for this menu idea; however, since those early days, I have started to make them from ‘scratch’…and they are so much better.
Very early on, my children taught me that there are a variety of sauces that you must have on hand for happy dipping, so I have included a few suggestions for making easy sauces to accompany the chicken fingers.
Unfortunately Fortunately, these chicken fingers do not make great leftovers, so eat them all at one sitting!
Marinating the chicken breast prior to baking is optional, although highly recommended.
Prep Time: 20 minutes Baking Time: 25-30 minutes
Number of Servings: 4
1 pound (450 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Marinade: 1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) mustard (regular or Dijon)
1 tablespoon (15 mL) maple syrup or brown sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (60 mL) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon mustard
1 large egg
3 tablespoons (45 mL) melted butter
1 ¼ cup (295 mL) panko-style bread crumbs
3 tablespoons (45 mL) freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon (5 mL) kosher salt
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper
Variety of dipping sauces (instructions follow)
- Prepare chicken ‘fingers’: ‘Butterfly’ each chicken breast by cutting it in half horizontally just until the last ½ inch. Open the breast up ‘like a book’. If the chicken is still over ½ inch thick, cover it with a sheet of plastic or wax paper wrap, and gently and lightly pound with a wooden mallet or the flat side of a large knife just until it is not more than ½ inch thick. Cut the breast into serving size ‘fingers’.
- Marinate the chicken in a mixture of the buttermilk, mustard, syrup and salt for at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours.
- When it is time to prepare the chicken, remove the ‘fingers’ from the marinade (discard) and season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 3750 F (1900C). Generously oil a baking sheet or line the baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper (drizzle with some oil).
- Prepare the ‘breading station’. Set out 3 shallow bowls.
- In the first bowl, place the flour.
- In the second bowl, whisk together the mustard and egg.
- In the third bowl, combine the panko-style crumbs with the melted butter, cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Dredge a chicken ‘finger’ in the flour, then in the egg-mustard mixture, and finally, in the panko crumb mixture – make sure you allow excess liquid drip off the chicken prior to coating in the crumbs. Gently press the chicken into the crumbs to evenly and thoroughly coat the chicken. Place coated chicken on the baking sheet.
- Continue with the remaining chicken pieces.
- Bake at 3750F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn once during the baking time.
- Serve with a selection of dipping sauces (recipes follow). … and maybe some fries.
(also great with Chicken Wings)
Honey Mustard: Whisk together equal parts of honey and your favourite style of mustard. Add a little vegetable oil.
Quick BBQ Sauce: Heat 1/3 cup ketchup with 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce. When gently simmering, add a ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika, some salt and pepper. Add a little water if the mixture is too thick. Add some liquid smoke, if desired.
Pseudo-Ranch: Mix 2 tablespoons sour cream with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise. Stir in 1 minced clove of garlic. Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped green onions or chives and 1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley. Stir in 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar, along with salt and pepper to taste.
Asian Sweet and Sour Sauce: Combine 1/3 cup apricot or peach jam with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon ketchup.
Questions and comments are always welcome firstname.lastname@example.org