Spicy "Fried" Chicken Tenders with Glazed Sweet Potato Sticks

I generally put a lot of effort into making dinner. I comb through my cookbooks and bookmarks to come up with a meal plan every week and I try to make dinner most nights so that we won’t go out to eat instead. Brandon is a good sous chef and helps me prep everything, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood to put in all the effort, so over the past couple of years I have gathered a bunch of go-to recipes just for this occasion. I keep the ingredients in stock so that if I’m tired or I forgot to defrost the meat for my planned recipe or whatever else goes wrong, I can pull them out and have dinner within an hour. This is one such meal and probably the one I default to the most. I realized I had never blogged about it, which felt weird since we eat it so much. But I think it’s because these chicken tenders are so good that I’ve never wanted to bother with photographing them when I could be eating them instead.

I have somewhat of a weakness for chicken tenders and I believe I have tried every version of baked tenders with breadcrumbs, crackers, crushed up cornflakes and whatever else. These are hands-down my favorite version and it’s because of the panko. If you’ve never heard of it, panko is a light and crispy type of breadcrumb, traditionally used in Japanese food. But it’s become much more common over here and I’ve never had any problems finding it at a grocery store (along with the rest of the breadcrumbs and also in the Asian food section). Over time, I started adding a spice mixture to the panko to give the tenders some extra kick, but they are just as good without it.

Chicken Tenders

The crunchy panko, combined with this method of oven “frying” the tenders makes for perfectly crispy chicken and I don’t get that gross feeling afterward like I do when I eat fried food. The method mainly involves preheating your pan so that it’s really hot before you add the chicken; it’s not complicated but it is very effective.

Glazed Sweet Potato Sticks

I almost always make these sweet potato sticks along with with the tenders because A) sweet potatoes are my favorite vegetable and B) these are dead easy to make. I don’t even bother with silly things like measurements anymore. Just cut up the potatoes, sprinkle with a little butter and a handful of brown sugar (and cinnamon if you like) and roast until tender. How’s that’s for no effort? Despite being so simple, these glazed sweet potatoes are so good that they might as well be a dessert.

Both of these are light recipes (nutrition info is included below), but to be extra healthy you may want cook up something green along with this meal. Roasted vegetables like broccoli, green beans, brussel sprouts or kale are simple to prepare and can easily be cooked along with the sweet potatoes and chicken.

Note: If you plan on making these two recipes together, you will notice there is a temperature issue in that the tenders cook at 50 degrees more than the potatoes. What works for me is to set the oven to 425 degrees, which is right in middle. I cook the potatoes for a little less time: about 35 minutes, and the chicken for a little more time: 25-30 minutes.

My strategy:
-Prepare the potatoes
-Prep your buttermilk and panko
-Put the potatoes in the oven
-Prepare tenders so they can stand for the required 10 minutes
-Bake chicken along with the potatoes for the remaining 25 or so minutes

Check regularly (especially near the end) so you can make sure nothing gets over/under cooked. If the potatoes start getting burnt around the edges, remove them from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm.

Spicy "Fried" Chicken Tenders with Glazed Sweet Potato Sticks

Spicy “Fried” Chicken Tenders

adapted from Cooking Light: Fresh Food Fast

Dinner | Servings: 3-4 servings
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 23 min | Total time: 38 min

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 – 3 tsp. (depends on how spicy you like things) chipotle/southwestern/cajun spice mix (like Ms. Dash)*
  • 3/4 cup low-fat or nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast tenders (about 12)

*Note: Feel free to omit the chipotle spice, they are just as good plain.

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (F).
  2. Pour buttermilk into a shallow dish. Pie plates work perfectly for me.
  3. Combine panko, salt, pepper and chipotle spice in another shallow dish.
  4. Dip each tender in the buttermilk and then dredge in the panko mixture, pressing firmly on both sides to cover well. Shake gently to remove excess and place on a wire rack. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Put a jellyroll pan/cookie sheet into your oven to heat up while the chicken stands.
  6. Coat chicken well with cooking spray. Remove the hot pan from the oven and coat that with cooking spray, too. Transfer the chicken to the pan.
  7. Bake for 23 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Nutrition info:


Serving size: about 3 chicken tenders
Calories: 310 calories
Fat: 3g fat
Carbohydrates: 23.8g carbs
Fiber: .8g fiber
Protein: 44g protein

 

Glazed Sweet Potato Sticks

adapted from Cooking Light Complete Cookbook

Side Dish | Servings: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 40 min | Total time: 50 min

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch square sticks or wedges*
  • 2 tbsp. butter, divided
  • 6 rounded tbsp. brown sugar, divided
  • Optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc.

*Note: I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to cut off the ends and sides of the potato so that it’s a big rectangular block. Then you can easily slice it in 1/2 thick strips and cut them up into sticks. You can then slice up the remaining potato that you trimmed off or discard it.

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. Place sweet potato sticks in a single layer on a jellyroll pan or baking dish. You may need more than one pan to fit them all, but they can be squished together as long as they stay in a single layer.
  3. Cut 1 tbsp. butter into 6 small squares and place them all around the pan of potatoes. Sprinkle on 3 tbsp. brown sugar and any spices you like.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir the potatoes to coat well with the melted sugar and butter. Pat them back into a single layer and sprinkle with the remaining butter (cut up into small pieces like before) and brown sugar.
  5. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and are starting to brown on the top and edges. Serve immediately. The glaze will become sticker as they cool and they can become harder to remove from your pan.

Nutrition info:


Serving size: about 2/3 cup
Calories: 182 calories
Fat: 3.9g fat
Carbohydrates: 36.1g carbs
Fiber: 3g fiber
Protein: 1.7g protein