Friday, March 1, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Embarrassingly Easy Baked Chicken Tenders

Three plain (front) and four "fried" (back) chicken tenders.

This method for preparing chicken is so simple that I am almost embarrassed to call it a recipe, but I use it so often that I had to share it.  For the basic version, I use only two ingredients -- olive oil and chicken tenders.  I first started cooking chicken this way for our sweet dog Diamond when her renal disease progressed to the point that she began to lose her appetite.  I had to avoid any seasoning for her sake, but sometimes she was not up to eating even the broth created in the cooking process.  I often ended up finishing the leftovers, and that is when I discovered that unseasoned chicken is actually quite good when baked in olive oil.

I eat the cooked chicken plain, or use it in recipes, and of course the tenders can be seasoned any way you like before cooking.  On our recent trip to Charleston I purchased several great locally-made spice blends at the Charleston City Market, and am currently using one of the blends to season my chicken -- delicious!  You can even make a "fried" chicken by coating the tenders with a blend of grated Parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, and your favorite seasonings.  This cooking method came off of a jar of McCormick Crusting Blend, which is unfortunately no longer available, and my chicken coating is based upon the Italian Herb and Cheese blend:

From Ozbo

Chicken tenders really do live up to their name, and stay tender even when baked.   I have found that this is not always the case with chicken breasts, so if you intend to use these I would recommend pounding them to tenderize, or at least cutting them into thinner pieces so that they cook more quickly and are less likely to become tough.

With all the possible uses and variations, this recipe is quite versatile -- I guess it really is a true recipe after all!

Embarrassingly Easy Baked Chicken Tenders

2 T. olive oil
1 package chicken tenders (about 8 to a package)
salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Pour the oil into a 7x11-inch glass baking dish.  Coat each chicken tender in the oil and line them up in the pan (one package of tenders fits perfectly into this pan size -- I don't know if a glass pan is essential, but that is what I use).  Bake the chicken at 425 degrees for 15 minutes until it is no longer pink, but do no overcook.  Serves 2-4 (depending upon appetite).

Variations:  Sprinkle any favorite seasoning blend over the chicken before baking.  To make Oven "Fried" Chicken Tenders, for every pound of chicken combine 1/4 cup each grated Parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. of salt (or to taste) plus any other preferred seasonings, if desired, and place the mixture in a shallow bowl.  After coating each chicken tender in oil, dip both sides in the crumb mixture before lining them up in the pan.  Sprinkle any leftover crumbs on top of the chicken and cook as directed.

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