06 January 2015
Minimalist chicken fingers
Huzzah! This week we are getting an entirely new housewide furnace system!
After a full month with no heat, this is MORE than welcome.
Characteristics of the furnace-impaired
- When you check the temperature at 8 am, seeing "54F" is a huge relief. (It's been as low as 45F.)
- Your laptop is too cold to carry around for more than about 30 seconds.
- Blankets are acceptable evening wear. Also day wear and morning wear.
- You have to warm up your deodorant before it's soft enough to apply.
- Your daily tea intake zooms from 5 cups to 25.
- You're wearing more than half your wool clothing at any given time. In fact, you look through knitwear patterns while wearing at least two hand-knitted things already.
- Going for a walk around your neighborhood doesn't chill you down -- it warms you up. It's also a great excuse to put on a full coat.
- Space heaters. Even the tiny desk handwarmer is running all day. Of course, you have to be careful not to turn on the bathroom light, or you could blow a fuse.
- You start fantasizing about which foods could bake for four hours at a time.
- When the new furnace is installed, you plan to set the thermostat to a luxurious 62F.
Having no heat in the house has really lowered my energy. All I want to do is eat something hot and go to bed. Simple food is definitely the order of the day around here.
And it works for new year's too! Who doesn't want a minimal approach to eating in the new year? A plate of tasty, easy chicken, plus a pile of wilted greens (with mashed potatoes if you have the willpower), and you are set.
Unlike a lot of chicken finger recipes, this one requires the most minimal of dredging. Highly seasoned flour is the one and only thing I use to coat these chicken fingers. This means you can absolutely make chicken fingers when you have neither eggs nor breadcrumbs in the house, and the results are still delicious, if a bit less crusty.
Also, this cooking experience made me really internalize just how superior high-quality organic and cage-free chicken is to the typical factory chicken. I mean, clearly I knew this before, but this made it hit home.
I don't cook chicken often, largely because I find the smell of raw chicken overwhelmingly vile. But this time? I got the best quality chicken I could, and the smell was just about nonexistent. The difference was astounding. There's nothing like the evidence of your own bodily reaction to reinforce your previously held academic opinions.
Minimalist chicken fingers
a chicken breast, boned and skinned
salt, pepper, cayenne
vegetable oil or your choice of frying oil
mustard or your choice of condiment to serve
plastic wrap or bag (I use the bag from the butcher counter)
meat mallet or other pounding equipage
Start by putting the stainless steel or cast-iron frying pan of your choice over medium-high heat. You want to make sure your pan is good and hot before you start cooking.
Prep your chicken breast by trimming off any extra fat and membranes. Put it in between two sheets of plastic wrap (or in a plastic bag) and pound it gently to achieve a uniform thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. I generally use my rolling pin to pound meat, but a real meat mallet is probably easier.
Cut your chicken into strips about an inch and a half wide, working across the grain. Do your best to make the strips uniform in size.
In a shallow dish of your choice, mix a few handfuls of flour with a seasoning of salt, pepper, and cayenne. I don't measure, obviously, but you'll want to be fairly liberal with the seasonings. For one chicken breast, you'll probably want about 3/4 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp of each spice. It really depends on your spice tolerance and preferences, though.
Dredge your pieces of chicken in your flour mixture, turning to coat all sides.
Add a quarter-inch layer of oil to the bottom of your pan. Give it a few minutes to heat up before you start cooking. You can test with a scrap of breaded chicken; if it sizzles, it's ready.
Fry your chicken for approximately 3-4 minutes per side, or until nicely golden brown. The timing will depend on the size of your chicken pieces. Smaller pieces take less time. When you think they're done, they're probably done. Test by cutting a thick piece in half.
Serve with spicy mustard or the other dipping sauce of your choice. Anything that works with chicken is straight-up delightful here.
Barbecue sauce? Yes. Ketchup? If you like ketchup, I'm not going to judge. Caesar salad dressing? Yes, although in that case you might consider serving these directly on top of a romaine heart salad. Homemade ranch? Tzatziki? A garlicky tahini sauce? Yes, yes, and yes.
Serve some pickle spears on the side for a true diner experience, or just stack up a tower of cucumber slices. And if you have the energy, the aforementioned wilted greens or mashed potato -- both with a nice pat of butter and some salt -- are a good plan.
Go to town. It's a pretty nice town.