Supersize Me was on TV the other night. Despite the fact that it was created six years ago, I’d never seen the documentary until this year, a few months ago when I streamed it to my computer during my one-month free trial with Netflix. This past Sunday night, I caught the couple minutes where the main character weighs in after a few days of eating a McDonald’s-only diet, something he tried and documented for a full month, gaining weight and hurting his health just as you’d expect. I also caught the scene where he orders chicken nuggets, and the movie does a quick aside, complete with a cartoon illustration, of how chicken nuggets are made.
A while ago (was it last year?), I also watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (I’m guessing a lot of you did, too?), and saw him explain to children where chicken nuggets come from. And of course I’ve seen this image (click at your own risk and don’t say I didn’t warn you) floating around the Internet and people’s Facebook profiles. I know where commercial chicken fingers or tenders come from; you probably do, too.
But like with everything else we already know is bad for us, chicken fingers have one small thing going for them, and sometimes that’s all it takes to win us over: they taste good. So what are you supposed to do?
Enter homemade, boneless, skinless, marinated, covered-with-homemade-breadcrumbs and then baked chicken tenders.
I have to say, I love remaking something with good ingredients, taking a fast-food idea and redeeming it with whole foods, whether it’s a chicken panko recipe or french fries. It’s like recovering a chair you got from a garage sale, not that I’ve ever done that, or like renovating a living room, not that I’ve ever done that either. I imagine those things to be all that this is: encouraging, exciting, empowering.
Not only is this homemade version of chicken fingers better for you—not to mention you know which part of the chicken it comes from—but it’s also delicious: crispy and flavorful, perfect for dipping in honey just like we used to. I made mine with a side of roasted sweet potato circles (just wash the sweet potatoes, slice them into rounds or half circles, bake with coconut oil for about an hour). Whether you care about the health benefits or not, these are chicken fingers you can feel good about eating—and while eating, and I think that’s pretty great.
1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken tenders, trimmed of fat (I like the organic, antibiotic-free version from Trader Joe’s)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup organic buttermilk
a couple teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup flour (I used whole grain spelt)
1 cup toasted bread crumbs (I toasted 3 slices organic spelt bread and threw them in the food processor)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for greasing the baking sheet and brushing on the chicken
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, egg and garlic powder. Pour this mix into a large, resealable bag, and add the chicken. Seal bag and refrigerate for two to four hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In another large, resealable bag, combine flour, bread crumbs, salt and baking powder. Remove chicken from fridge, and remove pieces from marinade, placing them into the bag of bread crumbs. Seal bag and shake to coat all the pieces.
On an oiled baking sheet, lay the crumb-dredged chicken pieces in a single layer. (I used two baking sheets.) Brush the tops with melted oil or butter. Stick in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, turning the pieces once halfway through.