I mentioned to my husband recently that I had mastered an oven-baked chicken tender recipe, and his response was a little underwhelming; dismissive even. It sounded like a healthier version of a restaurant kid's meal, and frankly, he wasn't interested.
At the dinner table, however, I served them to the family, calling the dish "fried chicken" to my husband, and "chicken tenders" to my kiddos. I'm a big believer in cooking only one meal for the whole family — I'm not a short-order cook — but certainly the name could vary a little?
Success on all fronts! My husband is the fried chicken lover of the bunch, but he watches what he eats fairly strictly. And he was sold on the chicken — crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside; no dipping sauce needed. (But hey, if you want to grab some low-fat yogurt or ranch dressing, I wouldn't stop you.)
The secret to this adult-friendly chicken tender recipe is a few hours in a simple low-cal marinade made of sherry and Dijon mustard, which tenderizes the chicken and then serves as the glue for panko bread crumbs. Using panko means lots of texture and crunch without an overly heavy coating. (Another option: pulse up some fresh bread in a processor to create jagged, fluffy bread crumbs, and you'll only need a slice or two of bread for a full recipe of tenders.)
Spraying the tenders with an oil mister combined with high oven heat work together to create a crispy crust — not quite fried, but pretty darned close. With boneless skinless chicken breast meat boasting 31 grams of protein per serving (and fewer than 4 grams of fat), this easy chicken tender recipe may take a permanent spot in your weeknight dinner menu rotation. Both the adults and the kiddos will be thrilled.
DIJON AND SHERRY OVEN CHICKEN TENDERS
Start to finish: 35 minutes, plus marinating time
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup dry sherry (or other fortified wine, such as Marsala or Madeira or Port)
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs, or dried herbes de provence, or dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast tenders, or boneless skinless chicken breast cut into strips about one-inch wide and three inches long
1 cup panko bread crumbs
olive oil in a spray mister (or nonstick spray)
Place the mustard, sherry, herbs, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag and mix the contents by squishing the bag a little. Add the chicken to the bag, coating well with the mustard mixture. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 1-8 hours.
Once ready to bake, heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fit a baking rack on a large baking sheet. (Cover the baking sheet with foil to catch drips and make clean up easier.) Lightly spray the baking rack with olive oil to keep chicken from sticking. Place the bread crumbs on a plate and use a fork to remove chicken tenders from the marinade and toss in crumbs to coat on all sides. Place the breaded chicken tenders on the baking rack on the baking sheet and spray the top of the chicken lightly with the olive oil mister. Bake the chicken until cooked through to 160 degrees, about 20-25 minutes. Serve.
Cooks note: Add 1 tablespoon of honey to the marinade for honey-mustard tenders.
Nutrition information per serving: 289 calories; 20 calories from fat; 2 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 97 mg cholesterol; 840 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 41 g protein.