Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tortilla Chip Crusted Chicken Tenders

What do you do with those last bits of crumbly tortilla chips at the bottom of the bag? Some may crumple up the bag and throw them away, but there are quite a few things that can be done with those tiny little highly seasoned pieces. I'm one who hates to waste so I try my best to use every last bit of what is left. Even more so now that I have been reading An Everlasting Meal from Tamar Adler. Her approach to cooking food is simple but elegant and rustic at the same time. Since starting her book, my desire to experiment in the kitchen has grown so much more than before. I can be baking all morning at work yet when I come home, I'm ready to continue spending my time in the kitchen. Yesterday was my day off and I spent the majority of it in my happy place. I love spending time preparing food. It's zen-like to me. Some people think I'm silly for taking the amount of time I do to prepare my meals but it's a process for me. A process I enjoy very much.
A process I don't enjoy very much is writing recipes. I've had people on Instagram ask for recipes but to me, the act of stopping my flow to write down measurements just ruins the experience. Hence, the reason why I haven't posted anything in six months. I understand that baking is a science and is deserving of a written recipe, but I want to try something new on this blog for non-"baking" items and simply talk through the process. Recipes have always been difficult for me to follow anyway. They just don't ever come out right. You have to take into account that all the variables are different for each person preparing the recipe. Altitude, heat of your oven, gas or electric range. Tamar Adler touches on this subject in her book and it's the first time I found someone else who gets it. "No matter how well a cookbook is written, the cooking time will be wrong. Ingredients don't take three or five or ten minutes to be done; it depends on the day and the stove. So you must simply pay attention, trust yourself, and decide" (64).
Now back to those tortilla chips, which is the whole purpose of this post. I decided to use them as the breading for chicken tenders. I had raw chicken in the fridge that needed to be cooked but I wanted more substance than just plain baked chicken for lunch. First things first, I preheated the oven to 350°F. For the breading, I took a glass jar (any heavy object will work) and smashed the leftover bag of chips to even tinier pieces. I poured the crumbs into a shallow bowl and added a little bit of cashew nut flower along with salt, pepper, red chili flakes, and smoked paprika. Everyone has different tastes so season to your liking. I was only coating about 6 pieces of chicken so adjust your ingredients as needed. (If you have a whole breast, slice into strips.) In another shallow bowl I added spelt flour for the initial coating of the tenders. In a third bowl, whisk one egg until combined. Use the spelt flour for the initial coating on the chicken. Dip into beaten egg and then coat in tortilla crumb mixture. Lay the breaded chicken down on a greased, foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes and then flip chicken pieces over. Change the oven temperature to broil and cook for about 4-5 more minutes. Watch out that you don't burn them. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

I created a simple spinach salad topped with the chicken tenders and homemade pickled vegetables (carrot, fennel, and swiss chard stems.) I attempted to make the mayonnaise recipe from Adler's book, but as I've said before, I'm not good with recipes. My mayonnaise was a fail but after adding more salt, pepper, spices, and a little apple cider vinegar, it was a delicious salad dressing.