This isn’t even really a recipe.
I make breaded chicken – whole breasts, tenders, or fillets pounded thin – all the time. I use cornmeal, bread crumbs or panko, and I mix and match the seasonings based on craving and/or instinct. I love the satisfying crunch of fried chicken, but at home I prefer to bake rather than fry. Who was it that said that people go out to eat because they don’t have deep fryers at home? Whoever it was, they definitely had me in mind.
I love all manner of deep fried things, from arancini (fried risotto balls) to chicken wings to potato skins, but I’ve always said I would never, ever own a deep fryer because I wouldn’t be able to stop frying things. Seriously. I would fry anything and everything just to see how it would turn out. Cheesecake? Throw it in the fryer. Peanut butter and jelly? Fry it. Breakfast burrito? Make it a breakfast chimichanga.
I’m getting off track here, but the point I’m trying to make is that these crispy, juicy, delicious chicken tenders provide all the satisfaction of a deep fried crunch without tossing them into a vat of hot oil. They are lightly breaded in flour, egg and seasoned cornmeal, then baked on an oiled baking sheet until golden brown.
Recipes like this are hard for me to write out because generally when I make this I add herbs and spices to the cornmeal relatively randomly, often based on what I’m craving that day. I actually had to figure out the amounts of everything I used so that I could share it with you; I feel like “just sprinkle in a few dashes of cumin until it seems like enough, then add a pinch more” would not be a helpful recipe instruction for anyone.
Today, I chose a combination of smoky cumin, savoury garlic powder and sweet, spicy aleppo pepper flakes. I love the smoky sweetness of aleppo chiles, but if you can’t find them feel free to add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes if you still want a bit of heat. Some mild chili powder would be a good addition as well.
I like to serve these with a quick curry mayo: basically just some light mayo, a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, a spoonful of curry powder and some salt and pepper. My husband likes them with plum sauce, and you can really dip them in whatever suits your fancy, or just eat them on their own. Enjoy!
- ½ cup plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- ⅓ cup finely ground cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon aleppo chilli flakes
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 lb chicken tenders (or 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1-inch strips)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Oil or spray a baking sheet and set aside.
- Place 3 medium-sized bowls in a row, and add the following to them:
- Bowl #1: ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon cumin, pinch of salt & pepper.
- Bowl #2: beaten egg.
- Bowl #3: ¼ cup flour, ⅓ cup cornmeal, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon aleppo chilli flakes, pinch of salt & pepper.
- Take each chicken tender and dredge it in Bowl #1 (flour), coating completely and shaking off excess. Dip in Bowl #2 (egg) to coat, then dip into Bowl #3 (cornmeal) and press to coat completely. Place coated tender on prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat dipping/coating process (flour - egg - cornmeal) with remaining tenders. Bake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, turning once, until cooked through and golden brown. Serve immediately with your choice of dip.