Market Musings Blog

What to do with a chicken tender?

Chicken Tender Tacos
Locally-raised, Kadejan chicken tenders are on sale through Nov. 18 for only $5.99/lb. But what are they and what can you do with them?

Knowing their identity, chickenwise, makes the difference between something succulent and something with the texture of sawdust. That’s because this cut is white, fatless meat from the underedge of chicken breasts. It’s thin, and if you don’t protect it during cooking, it will not tempt your appetite. If you enjoy furtive stops for fast food, you are certainly familiar with so-called chicken tenders: they’re those deep-fried, crusty little chicken nuggets or fingers that so many people fuel their gridiron football season with.

To get the most out of chicken tenders, protect their fatless selves by either breading and frying them or poaching them delicately. Here’s how, followed by a tasty taco to make with the meat.

Breaded and fried tenders
Ingredients:
½ pound chicken tenders
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup flour
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
coconut or refined peanut oil
large paper bag

Method
1. Cut the tenders into whatever size you want, but no smaller than 1 inch square. Dredge the nuggets/pieces in beaten egg, then in flour and bread crumbs. Set aside to semi-dry for about 15 minutes.

2. Pour about ½ inch of high-smoke-point oil into a heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet or Dutch oven. When the top starts to look iridescent or the temperature reaches 360°F. on an immersible thermometer, lower a small handful of coated tenders into the oil. (A Chinese spider works perfectly for this; if you don’t have one, use a large, perforated spoon.) When the tenders have turned a lovely golden brown, lift them out with the spider or spoon, and place them on the paper bag to drain.

Poached Tenders
Ingredients:
small piece of fresh ginger
1 scallion, cut into three pieces
2 cups of cold water
½ pound chicken tenders

1. Cut a 2-inch piece of ginger from the main stem; you needn’t peel it. Slice it crosswise into several thinner coins. Add this to a large, heavy pot (cast iron, cast aluminum, enameled iron), along with the scallion and 2 cups of water, cover, and bring the water t a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken tenders to the water, turn off the heat, re-cover the pot, and allow it to sit for 45 minutes. When you uncover the pot, the meat will be cooked through, very delicate in texture and flavor, and not the least big dried out.

Terrific Tacos
Makes 4 well-stuffed tacos

Ingredients:
olive oil
8 corn tortillas
½ pound breaded/fried or poached chicken tenders
1 lime, halved
¼ cup very finely sliced red or white onion or scallions, white and green parts, cut crosswise
1 ripe avocado, smashed, then salted
some salty feta or queso añejo
salsa or sriracha sauce
fresh cilantro leaves

Method
1. Heat a cast-iron griddle or skillet on MEDIUM, then add about 1 teaspoon of oil, and spread it across the surface. Lay two tortillas, one atop the other, in the pan, and heat until they start to bubble and heave. Turn them over, adding a bit of oil if the pan becomes dry.

2. Tuck ¼ of the meat, squeeze of fresh lime juice, onion or scallion, spoonful of avocado, cheese, squirt of sriracha, and cilantro leaves to each doubled tortilla, and serve immediately.

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