No. 27 & 28: Chicken Fingers & Crispy Oven French Fries

Sometimes you just want simple food.

On one of my first business trips, I checked into the hotel at around 9pm, absolutely starving. I scanned the room service menu and nothing looked particularly appetizing. Who wants scallops at 9pm before you head to bed?

But then I saw the kids' menu.

There, I found what I really wanted. A pb&j. With apple slices. YES. I ordered it with no hesitation.

It came half an hour later, toasted with the crusts cut off, plated on white china, with water and lemon in a wine glass next to it. No joke.

That's when I felt a little ridiculous. And I definitely couldn't believe I signed the bill for $22. But oh, was it good.

My co-worker gave me a terrible time the next day for ordering a pb&j from room service. I still had no shame.

Chicken fingers

Sometimes you just need simple kid food. For a Saturday evening in, this grown up version of chicken fingers from Food 52 was just the ticket.

Ingredients

1/2 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into 1-inch strips and pounded gently until about 1/3-inch thick

To make

Prep the chicken by cutting it lengthwise into 1 inch strips and pounding gently until 1/3 inch thick.

(Mr. McCormick helped with this step. And we don't have a pulverizer, so out came the potato masher.)

Pounded chicken1

Put the flour in a wide, shallow dish and season generously with salt and pepper, then stir through with a fork. Put the breadcrumbs in a second wide, shallow dish, add the parmesan and oregano, and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir through until everything is well-combined. Crack the eggs into a third dish and beat them lightly with the fork.

Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and get out a large, clean plate.

Coat each of the chicken strips with the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Dip them in the egg mixture, and then in the breadcrumbs, pressing lightly so that the breadcrumbs adhere.

Crumbs process

As you finish each one, set it on the plate.

Plate of crumbed cutlets

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter has finished foaming and just starts to brown, gently lay half of the chicken strips in the pan, being careful not to crowd them.

Chicken in pan

Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown and crispy. Use tongs to turn them over and cook for another minute or two, until both sides are evenly browned and the chicken is cooked through. Watch for some spattering of the oil.

Browned chicken

Transfer the chicken fingers to the paper-towel lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the chicken, adding more oil and butter to the pan as needed. Serve the chicken fingers warm.

French fries

What goes better with a basket of chicken fingers than french fries? Nothing. Not even onion rings. Yep, I said it.

Good friends of ours (who are both terrific cooks) say the secret to great french fries is boil, then bake. This ensures they are cooked through but also finished with a nice and crispy outside.

I used their method and also stole a couple tips on baking temperature/longevity from this oven fries recipe.

Ingredients

2-3 large baking potatoes peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide planks, each plank cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

To make

Boil potato strips for 5 minutes in salted water. Drain in a colander and pat dry with paper towels.

While potatoes continue to dry, place rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. When oven is ready, place potato strips on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat.

Roast 25 minutes. Using spatula, turn chips over. Roast until tender and golden brown around edges, about 25 minutes longer.

French fries

If potatoes aren't yet browned and need more time, toss and check every 5-10 minutes.

When finished, mix salt and pepper, then sprinkle over chips.

The results

Oh my, these recipes were so good.

This is probably my favorite breading recipe of all time. It not only adhered well, but the grated cheese with the bread crumbs was a nice twist. I'll be trying it again on oven fried chicken.

I didn't do a great job on the timing, so the chicken fingers were done about 30 minutes before the fries. They were so good warm out of the pan that we gobbled them up with no photos.

The french fries took about an hour total to cook in the oven, probably a result of the boiling first* and the fact that mine were a bit bigger than the sizes above. However, they were incredibly crispy, a perfect finish.

*Side note: If you don't want to boil first, no need. You can just follow the baking steps above.

Plated fries

Because we are super fancy, we served them with ketchup.

All in all, while the tastes and methods were very grown up, these dishes transported us straight to being kids again. And just like little ones, we were in bed by 10pm. Such grown ups.

Questions & Comments

My mother-in-law knows french fries. She is the authority on hot and crispy, and has warned many a waiter of her standards when ordering. Here's her tried and true method for homemade fries.

Set oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle some olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and then put it in the oven to pre-heat. For the fries, I like to use "gold" potatoes for their creamy texture. Clean them with a brush, puncture a few times with a fork, and microwave for a couple minutes (not too done). Then slice to the thickness of fries you want, put in large bowl, and gently toss with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place them on the hot rimmed baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes. The key to the crisp is the hot oil from the pre-heated pan. Yum!

Several of Mr. McCormick's co-workers have now made the grown up chicken fingers and have raved about them.

Boy let me tell you did I love these! Super easy and exactly what I was looking for. My low-carb eating fiancé is on the road right now, so I thought it was the perfect occasion to channel my inner child and make these, and I was not sorry. I will now be making those every time Mr. B. has to go out of town.

So glad they are a hit!

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