I have some very fond memories of enjoying Buffalo wings back when I was in college. We weren't all that far from the home of that famous dish, and some of the folk I hung out with were quite serious about their wings. One person in particular had a fabulous recipe which I will NOT repeat here, as its moniker was "Joe's Flaming Assholes" and he wasn't kidding about that, yikes.
While wings are a guilty pleasure, in the general public interest of preserving both your butt and your arteries for better purposes, here's a healthy finger food that is far easier and faster to prepare. Its eventual ranking on the Scoville scale is entirely up to you. Enjoy!
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts1; one breast for every one to two hungry noders, or one per three to four as a snack or appetizer
- marinade (optional)
- cornstarch, rice flour, or (third choice) all purpose flour
- sauce, as hot or as mild as you wish — mayonnaise (plain or flavored), honey mustard, hoi sin, Dijon mustard, etc. It needs to be fairly thick in order to work right, so if you want to use your favorite Louisiana hot sauce, mix it with mayonnaise to give it some body. I'm fond of mustards, and sometimes for a change I'll use San-J's Hot & Spicy Szechuan sauce.
- dry bread crumbs; panko is ideal, as it seems lighter and crisps up well
- sea salt, black pepper, and other seasonings to taste
- Parmigiano Reggiano (optional); freshly grated
- cooking spray, or one of those refillable spray pumps, loaded with extra virgin olive oil
- You will also need two cooling racks – one for raw chicken, one for cooked chicken.
If you'll be marinating the chicken, let it soak in a covered dish in your refrigerator for at least an hour, then drain the meat and dispose of the marinade. Marinating isn't necessary for this recipe, but it does give you the opportunity to play with more flavors if you have the time.
Cut the meat into strips about the size of a finger. Dust them lightly with cornstarch or rice flour, shake off anything that'll come off, and set them to dry on a cooling rack. Please do use a rack rather than a plate, as the rack allow the undersides of the pieces to dry, too. A first coating that is more dry will help later layers to hold on better.
Put a sheet of foil down on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C / hot / gas mark 6-7). If you don't use an oven thermometer, allow the oven 20 minutes to heat up.
Let the raw chicken fingers dry while your oven comes to temperature. (If you get interrupted or think you will be more than an hour before cooking them, though, refrigerate them!) In the meantime, put your bread crumbs into a flat dish or plate, season them if you wish, and if you'll be using Parmesan, mix that in as well.
Once the oven is hot, take the cookie sheet out of oven. Protect it with a sheet of aluminum foil for easier cleanup, if you like. Spritz it with oil. Dredge the chicken pieces in your liquid mixture and shake off any excess, as you don't want it to get too gloopy.
Next, coat the chicken in breadcrumbs. If you got enough of the liquid off, the crumb layer will not be overly thick, but that's the idea. Lay the fingers down on a cookie sheet, making sure not to let them touch one another. Next, spray them with cooking spray, going for even but fairly light coverage. Do not soak them, else thenceforward they will lie soggily in an oil slick of resentment and glower at you accusingly.
Bake for about 5 minutes, then check their progress by pulling them out briefly. They should be sizzling nicely. Cut into a couple of the thickest fingers to be sure no pinkness remains on the inside. They might be done in 5 minutes, but they also might need to go a little longer. Chicken fingers are too small to easily test with a meat thermometer, so please err on the side of safety if you've any doubt. A couple of extra minutes of baking will not hurt them.
Once done, remove them to a clean cooling rack to set up for a minute or two before serving.
Because these chicken fingers have a spiced undercoating, they do just fine without a dipping sauce. Celery sticks on the side (plus hot sauce for the grownups) always go nicely, though.
Or, serve this with a pile of crisp lettuce leaves. Lay a few chicken fingers on a leaf and sprinkle them with some low- or non-fat blue cheese dressing and/or hot sauce. Roll it all up into a neat little package, and gnosh away. Yum!
A light salad, some fresh seasonal fruit and a bit of garlic bread on the side would not go amiss, either.
Storage and reheating
Ideally you should prepare only what you need, as these are super-easy to make and are at their crispy best straight out of the oven. Should you be faced with leftovers or want to have enough for lunch tomorrow, though, let the chicken cool and dry on the cooling rack, then refrigerate it in a covered container. Reheat in the microwave on high for 15 to 30 seconds or until warmed through.
1. I humbly suggest you consider anthropod's advice and buy free-range chicken if you can find it. TVP might work as a substitute for vegetarians, but I've not tried that yet. Suggestions are welcome.
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North American Recipes
I have *ahem* received a number of comments regarding this node's title; it has led a few people to wonder (with varying degrees of humor) whether this is a recipe for making chicken fingers in a Hasbro® Easy-Bake Oven (http://www.hasbro.com/easybake/). I don't own one of those gems, so I've no way to test it. My concern is the temperature one of those ovens can reach. From what I saw, none of the recipes offered on the website use any raw meat, either. If anyone tries this with an Easy-Bake, let me know!
Hasbro® responded to my email with a very nice letter. Apparently, with an appropriate lightbulb and sufficient time for heating, an Easy-Bake can reach 400°F, which is plenty fine for this recipe. By all means, though, please do use the cut-and-check test for doneness. Hasbro® has no responsibility for this writeup.
factgirl says re Easy oven baked chicken fingers: You rocked my entire day! Long live chicken fingers and long live cooking with light bulbs!