I mentioned to my husband recently that I had mastered an oven-baked chicken tender recipe, and his response was a little underwhelming; dismissive even. It sounded like a healthier version of a restaurant kid's meal, and frankly, he wasn't interested.
At the dinner table, however, I served them to the family, calling the dish "fried chicken" to my husband, and "chicken tenders" to my kiddos.
Success on all fronts! My husband is the fried chicken lover of the bunch, but he watches what he eats fairly strictly. And he was sold on the chicken — crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, no dipping sauce needed. (If you want to grab some low-fat yogurt or ranch dressing, I wouldn't stop you.)
The secret to this adult-friendly chicken tender recipe is a few hours in a simple low-cal marinade made of sherry and Dijon mustard, which tenderizes the chicken and then serves as the glue for panko bread crumbs. Using panko means lots of texture and crunch without an overly heavy coating. (Another option: Pulse up some fresh bread in a processor to create jagged, fluffy bread crumbs, and you'll only need a slice or two of bread for a full recipe of tenders.)
Spraying the tenders with an oil mister combined with high oven heat work together to create a crispy crust — not quite fried, but pretty darned close. With boneless skinless chicken breast meat boasting 31 grams of protein per serving (and fewer than 4 grams of fat), this easy chicken tender recipe may take a permanent spot in your weeknight dinner menu rotation. Both the adults and the kiddos will be thrilled.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."