June 10, 2010

Crunchy Polenta Chicken Fingers

Crispy chicken fingers were supposed to be part of a Glee date. I know, I just wrote this publicly on the internet. I had planned to make a dinner of "school lunch," consisting of chicken fingers and fries to go along with the season finale of Glee. Yes, I had even sent M a personal Evite to alert him to our Glee themed stay-at-home-date. Hey, a girl needs something to look forward to. 

M and I kind of love Glee in the way that you love something that is so awkward at times it can be hard to watch, but still secretly makes you want to get in touch with your inner diva. Also awkward. It's a good week if the episode has us singing along from the couch... What can I say -- M and I were both acapella singing geeks in college, which now makes us perfect candidates to be total Gleeks.

Anyway, I guess my Evite wasn't cute enough or something, because our Glee date got derailed . By CHIPOTLE.  M , who was starving after 36 hours at the hospital, inhaled a giant burrito at approximately 5:00pm, and there went dinner plans! Despite the lack of school lunch fun, we had some decent kettle corn and enjoyed what was by far the best episode of Glee yet.

Long story short, I bumped school lunch to an evening later, and thank goodness I did because  I needed this simple and satisfying comfort food more than ever. It had been a tough day, and crispy, juicy pan-seared chicken fingers dipped in loads of ketchup brought me back to my inner child  with each bite.  These crunchy strips are a grown up version of a childhood favorite: they are a reminder of the days when lunch was a 20 minute obstacle before recess, utensils were optional, and feet  still dangled a distance from the cafeteria floor.  Although they might not be served up by a lady wearing a hair-net, I think you'll find that this pretty healthy and truly delicious version is even better, perhaps because, although we live in a more complicated adult world, it means that we have the power to make things like crispy chicken fingers for ourselves -- without waiting for every other Wednesday, tater tots on the side. And it means that now, eating is recess, because we're able to finally take the time to enjoy our food for the comfort it brings with the people we love.

Crunchy and Crispy Polenta Coated Chicken Fingers: (serves 2)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter or Earth Balance
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup polenta meal, preferably quick cooking
2 t. salt
2 t. cayenne pepper
1 egg
1/2 T. hot sauce

Rinse each chicken breast and pat dry. Between two pieces of wax paper, pound the chicken to 1/2 inch thin, then slice into strips of about even size. 

Preheat the oil and butter together in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat until they shimmer and sizzle together. Take care not to burn the butter. While the skillet is preheating, whisk the egg and hot sauce together in a shallow bowl. Mix together the flour, polenta, salt, and cayenne together in a plate.  (Optional, sometimes I like to mix in some Kick'n Chick'n rub!)

When the pan is hot, dip each piece of chicken one by one in the egg mixture, allowing any excess to drip off, then into the polenta mixture, coating each piece completely. Place each piece in the pan and don't move them until you check to find a crispy light brown coating on one side. Gently flip each piece over with tongs.

When your chicken fingers are browned and crispy, serve with your favorite side and dipping sauces.

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