Crispy Baked Chicken Fingers with Chipotle Ranch Dip

I’m a multi-tasker, and therefore I love when recipes are super versatile to suit any situation. This week, I wanted to come up with delicious option that could work on both the Super Bowl snack table as well as on weeknight dinner plates. (Side note celebration: we’re going to the Super Bowl, baby! Let’s Goooooooo!)

Since (almost) everyone loves a good crispy chicken finger, but (almost) no one loves a smelly kitchen of old frying oil and the sticky residue that clings to every surface post-fry, baking is the way to go. It can be tricky to actually get a nice crunch in the oven, but there are a few key steps to ensure juicy moist chicken, lightly encased in browned,  crispy breading.

First, it’s important to maximize flavor and tenderness in the actual chicken meat before cooking. Soak the chicken strips in milk, or buttermilk, seasoned liberally with salt & pepper, and grated garlic. The natural acidity and enzymes in the milk tenderizes the chicken, and also acts as a flavor enhancing marinade. I usually allow the pieces to soak for at least 45 minutes prior to cooking.

Next, let’s talk about the standard breading procedure. This is taught in culinary schools worldwide, but is probably not thoroughly explained along the path to home cooking success. The rule to remember is: F.E.B.- Flour, Eggwash, Breading. Set up a work station using deep, flat bottomed dishes lined up along the counter in that order. Start by patting the chicken pieces dry so that the flour can stick to the surface of the meat. The egg then adheres to the four layer, and the breading attaches to the egg. Season each station, to ensure flavor in every layer. Another secret is to add a little cornstarch and baking powder into the flour. The cornstarch helps wick away extra moisture (no sogginess here!), and the baking powder causes a slight chemical reaction for added crispiness.

Next to the breading station, place a wire rack on a baking sheet. This is where your prepped chicken strips will land. Baking the chicken strips elevated on a wire rack allows the air to circulate around each piece, cooking them evenly for that crisp result.  If you do not have a wire rack, you can bake them on parchment paper, but there might be a little moisture trapped on the underside, which can cause some sog.

For the dipping sauce, I’m going spicy with the addition of some chipotle in adobo. It’s basically just smoked jalapeños in a sauce full of seasonings. Chipotle is really spicy, and I find that I rarely use a whole can in one shot. My tip: divide the whole can into 4 portions, and seal into zip top bags. Freeze, and use as needed. If you’d like to skip the spice here, no problem. If you’re using buttermilk to marinate your chicken, you can set aside a few Tablespoons (non raw chicken tainted, of course)  to stir into the ranch sauce.

Crispy Baked Chicken Strips with Chipotle Ranch Dip

Ingredients for chicken:

  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into uniform strips
  • 2 c. milk or buttermilk
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 c. plain bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • finely ground Kosher salt & black pepper, as needed
  • non stick pan spray
  1. Place the chicken breast strips into a zip top bag along with milk, grated garlic, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Seal the bag, and allow to rest at room temperature for 45 minutes. Then, remove the chicken strips from the bag and place them into a baking dish or pan lined with paper towels. Pat the chicken strips dry, and discard the milk marinade.
  2. Set up the breading station using 3 flat bottomed, high sided dishes. To the first dish, combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, and 1 tsp. kosher salt. To the second dish, add 3 lightly beaten eggs. To the third dish, add the bread crumbs, onion powder, paprika, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, and mix well. Set a wire rack each into 2 baking sheet pans. Spray the racks with light coating of nonstick spray.
  3. Bread the chicken strips by first coating each piece in flour, shaking off the excess, then dipping into the beaten egg, allowing any excess to drip off, and finally coating in the bread crumb mixture, again shaking off any excess. Arrange the breaded chicken pieces onto the prepped wire rack sheet trays, allowing 1/2 inch of space between each piece.
  4. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 35-40 minutes, until breading is browned and chicken is cooked through, rotating the pans half-way through cooking. Allow to rest and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with Chipotle Ranch Dipping Sauce.

Chipotle Ranch Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 c. sour cream
  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. dried chives
  • 1-2 Tbs. chipotle in adobo
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until fully combined. Allow to sit for the flavors to meld for 15 minutes prior to serving.

 

 

SHISO FRESH IS CHEF JESSICA ROY OF SHISO KITCHEN IN BOSTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR OF ‘YOUR PERSONAL CHEF’ FOR THE LOWELL SUN WHERE YOU CAN FIND THESE AND MORE RECIPES WEEKLY. FOLLOW ALONG ON SOCIAL MEDIA VIA @SHISOFRESH AND @SHISOKITCHEN

Warm up with zesty Chicken Fajita Soup

Every January we press the ‘reset’ button and look to healthy fresh starts, and getting organized. Such was the case this week as I was searching for inspiration to write a recipe, and so I figured I’d lean in clean out my fridge, freezer, pantry, and play my own at-home game of ‘Chopped’.  Looking to my previous real-life experiences on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen helped prepare me for the challenge (insert Rocky theme here for background ambiance) as I set a timer to really get things going.

With 30 minutes on the clock*, I took stock of potential ingredients and saw that I had in the fridge: green bell pepper, portobello mushroom caps, a jar of pickled jalapeños, some brown bananas, and a few leftover limes. From the freezer came: chicken breasts, chicken stock, and a bag of diced onions that I usually keep on hand for when I’m feeling a little lazy (tip: when you’re chopping 1 onion, you might as well just chop 3, and freeze the extra for later days). Looking to the pantry, I found garlic and some aging tortillas. The wheels turned, and immediately i said ‘no’ to the banana, for this recipe, and made a mental note to make banana bread later. The rest would be turned into Chicken Fajita Soup. (*30 minute timer was to assess the situation, prep ingredients, and get the whole thing going. The soup takes a little longer to simmer and finish.)

To get the big time flavor of a skillet of sizzling fajita accoutrements, the first step to this soup is to saute and season each of the base ingredients providing bold flavor for a rich result in each and every bite. Since you can’t really have fajitas without tortillas, I decided to turn these into seasoned baked chips or strips to top the soup. Finishing each dish with a sprinkling of pickled jalapeños sealed the deal, though I really wished I’d had some sour cream and scallions on hand to top it off for a refreshing kick. I’ll leave that choice up to you- black beans, and shredded cheese also make for great additions to this soup.

Chicken Fajita Soup with Baked Tortilla Crisps

For soup:

  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 1.5-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced to 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 large portobello mushroom caps, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • vegetable or canola oil, as needed
  • 3 limes, for juice & garnish
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • smoked paprika, as needed
  • kosher salt & finely ground black pepper as needed
  • jarred sliced pickled jalapeños, for garnish
  • baked tortilla crisps (recipe below), for garnish
  1. Place the diced chicken pieces into a zip top bag, and add: juice of 1 lime, 2 Tbs. oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Press out the air, and seal the bag shut. Gently squeeze the bag, working the ingredients around until combined. Allow to rest & marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large dutch oven, or heavy bottomed soup pot heat 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pot and give a good stir to coat, and then spread in an even later across the bottom of the pot. Leave the mushrooms along and allow them to cook for 5 minutes. Give a good stir again, add 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until mushrooms are browned.
  3. To the browned mushrooms, add the diced onion, garlic, bell pepper, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and pinch of black pepper. Give a good stir to incorporate all ingredients, and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat until fragrant and the edges of onion and pepper are lightly browned.
  4. Add the marinated diced chicken to the pot, and stir to coat in the mushrooms, peppers and onions. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken has just started to turn white on the outside. Season with additional pinch of salt & pepper.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add the chicken stock to the pot, covering all ingredients. Add the juice from 1 lime, and stir to ensure all ingredients are mixed and nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan. If stock does not cover all of the ingredients, add 1 cup of water to cover along with a pinch of salt to season. Simmer the soup over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.
  6. Serve a generous portion of soup along with a heaping pile of baked tortilla crisps, sprinkling of sliced pickled jalapeños, and wedge of lime.

For tortilla crisps:

  • 4,  8″ flour tortillas
  • 2 Tbs. veggie or canola oil
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • pinch of kosher salt & ground black pepper
  • wedge of lime
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tortillas into strips about 1/4 inch wide by 2 inches long.
  2. In a mixing bowl, Toss the tortilla strips along with oil, chili powder, salt and pepper until all the strips are coated. Transfer the seasoned strips to a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until browned and crisp. Squeeze a wedge of lime juice over top of the crisps before serving.

 

SHISO FRESH IS CHEF JESSICA ROY OF SHISO KITCHEN IN BOSTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR OF ‘YOUR PERSONAL CHEF’ FOR THE LOWELL SUN WHERE YOU CAN FIND THESE AND MORE RECIPES WEEKLY. FOLLOW ALONG ON SOCIAL MEDIA VIA @SHISOFRESH AND @SHISOKITCHEN

How To Cut and Prep Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is definitely in the top 10 of my app time favorite ingredients. It’s super healthy, very versatile, and has a tasty texture to boot. However, S.S. can be quite pesky to deal with, especially considering some of the time consuming methods for just getting the squash itself cooked and tender enough to loosen and access those ‘spaghetti’ tendrils.

Here’s a quick video How-To with some time saving tips for Spaghetti Squash prep perfection in under 15 minutes!

 

 

SHISO FRESH IS CHEF JESSICA ROY OF SHISO KITCHEN IN BOSTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR OF ‘YOUR PERSONAL CHEF’ FOR THE LOWELL SUN WHERE YOU CAN FIND THESE AND MORE RECIPES WEEKLY. FOLLOW ALONG ON SOCIAL MEDIA VIA @SHISOFRESH AND @SHISOKITCHEN