The only thing better than chicken tenders? Tenders, Italian-style.
Who among us has not occasionally eyed the children’s menu at a restaurant and longed to order from that instead of the grown-up one? Mac n’ cheese, pasta with butter, and most of all: chicken tenders. What’s not to love? Luckily, these Italian-style chicken tenders come without judgment. Actually, that’s not true. I judge anyone who makes these to be really smart, with very good taste.
These tenders are modeled directly from Italian-style chicken cutlets. The kind that get dipped in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and fried in large pan. Usually served alongside pasta or on their own with a green salad, breaded chicken cutlets are a real treat. Using chicken tenders instead of large cutlets makes them more manageable to cook. It also makes them a little more fun.
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Some Notes on Italian-Style Chicken Tenders:
- Although extra-virgin olive oil gets most associated with Italian cooking, use a neutral vegetable oil like canola oil for frying. Canola has a higher smoke point, and won’t compete with the flavors of the chicken.
- Know when the oil is hot enough to add the chicken. The oil will shimmer, but not smoke. (Smoking means the oil is too hot; start over.) Also, add a pinch of breadcrumbs to the oil when you think it is getting hot enough. The breadcrumbs should sizzle. If they just sink and sit doing nothing, the oil is not hot enough yet.
- You will not use the entire amount of egg, breadcrumbs, and flour. This is because you need enough of those ingredients to dredge the chicken in.
Did you make these tenders? What did you think? Share in the comments, below.
Italian-Style Chicken Tenders
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs, preferably fresh-ground
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 turns fresh black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup packed flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped, plus more to garnish
- 1/4 cup freshly-grated pecorino-Romano cheese, plus more to garnish
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like canola)
- marinara sauce, optional (to dip)
- Make sure the tenders are patted dry. Prepare three shallow bowls and line a large dish or a baking sheet with paper towels. In the first bowl, add the flour. In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs, pecorino-Romano cheese, garlic, and parsley. In the third bowl, add the breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper.
- Add the vegetable oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat.
- While the oil is heating, working with a few tenders at a time, dredge the chicken first in the flour, shaking off the excess. Then dip them in the egg mixture. Then dredge the chicken in the breadcrumbs to fully coat. Shake off the excess.
- When the oil has heated -- test it by seeing if a few breadcrumbs sizzle when added -- add the chicken tenders. Cook on one side until the bottoms are nicely brown and the sides have started to cook, about five or six minutes. Turn the tenders over with a fork or tongs, and finish cooking for several minutes more. Drain on the paper-towel-lined dish or baking sheet. Repeat until all the tenders are cooked. TIP: Do not add too many tenders at a time or else they will lower the oil temperature too much and the chicken will be greasy. I like to add the tenders in a clockwise pattern, starting at 12 o'clock and working around the pan, so I can remember which were added first and last. As the first ones come off, I add a few new ones to replace them, and so on, until they are all cooked.TIP #2: There should be a thin, even layer of oil at all times. If, toward the end, it looks like the pan is getting a little dry, add one or two more tablespoons of oil. You may also have to adjust the heat down to medium-low if the pan begins to get too hot. You will know if things begin to smoke and the breadcrumbs get too dark too soon.
- Put the chicken tenders on a serving plate. Garnish with some additional pecorino-Romano cheese, fresh parsley, and salt. Serve hot. Marinara sauce can be served with this for dipping.