Your family will flip for crispy Chicken Fingers with Everything Sauce! Crunchy chicken fingers served with a homemade dipping sauce that’s great with just about everything.
Hello, hello – welcome to a brand new week – the last before the start of September (ok plus a day.) I saw some unseasonably early falling leaves the other day and almost shed a tear!
Did you have a good weekend? Highlights for us were hitting up the fair…again! It was my cough, 5th visit in less than two weeks, between us going as a family three times and me working at the Iowa Food and Family booth twice. We felt like total fair rats but it only comes around once a year and the three of us were itching to spend as much time outdoors as possible after a week of cold and rain. The Sutliff Cider-stocked Craft Beer Tent might have also been calling my name. ;)
Sunday was spent in a general frenzy working, cleaning, organizing, and doing laundry, broken up by my first hot latte in months. Our local Caribou is somewhat independent, since they’re attached to a grocery store, so they carry almond milk (MIRACLE OF LIFE!!) Although I forgot to say iced when ordering my go-to vanilla almond milk latte while out running errands Sunday morning, the warm drink was perfect for the chilly morning. (Leaves falling off trees is still not ok!)
Now, I had a nice little end of summer salad that I was going to share with you today but all that walking around the state fair surrounded by fried things I couldn’t eat gave me a fierce hankering for something golden brown and crispy. Coupled with requests for the dipping sauce Ben whipped up last week, I decided to do the dang thing and fry us a batch of good old fashioned Chicken Fingers paired with Everything Sauce!
Because aren’t we all still 12 year olds inside? (Hoarding Lisa Frank notebooks and Caboodles filled with Dr Pepper Bonne Bell Lip Smackers?)
Age aside, I am flipping out for these chicken fingers! As I mentioned a few weeks ago when sharing the recipe for my Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls, I’d never fried anything in my life until that point (yep, Midwesterners eat more than pork tenderloins and french fries! Though they are so delicious…) and was really surprised at how easy it was to do at home. That said, I had zero hesitation when I decided to heat up some oil in a cast iron skillet and get things sizzling.
Ok backing up – this “Everything Sauce” is the stuff Ben whipped up off the top of his head to pair with the Arancini he made from the leftover Sweet Corn Risotto I shared last week. (Are you following my verbal maze? Sorry!!) The sauce was so delicious – creamy, herby, bright, and tangy – that I made him recite the ingredients to me on the spot then recorded them in the way that all good recipes are recorded – on an envelope. We then had a brainstorming session for what else we could serve the sauce with and the clear answer was…everything. EVERYTHING would taste good with this stuff!
Chicken fingers, calamari, fish sticks, roasted shrimp, chicken nuggets, on top of burgers – seriously name a dish and it’d go with it. Since it’s creamy and tangy though, we thought something crispy and salty would pair best, so I went with crispy chicken fingers and ate about 36 of ’em straight out of the skillet. No shame in my fried chicken finger game.
Here’s the 411 (does 411 even exist anymore?): Chicken breasts cut into strips are quickly marinated in buttermilk then dredged in pulverized Rice Chex, for a gluten-free breading option (regular bread crumbs are fine too!) seasoned with my own homemade seasoning salt, and then fried until golden brown and audibly crispy. I seriously can’t even.
Served with Everything Sauce, aka chopped jalapeno, green onion, basil, garlic, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice sauteed in a bit of butter and flour then joined by milk and simmered until everything is creamy – this dish is craveable.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say I like these Chicken Fingers with Everything Sauce like, seven times more than my Copycat Chick-fil-A Bites with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce. There, I said it! The perfectly-seasoned crunchy coating on the chicken fingers combined with a dunk of zingy Everything Sauce left me wanting more.
Start by cutting 2lbs chicken breasts into 1″ thick strips. You could use chicken tenders instead but they’re usually sold at a premium and cutting strips from chicken breasts takes like, 2 minutes.
Add the chicken strips to a baking dish then cover with about 2 cups low fat buttermilk. The buttermilk will keep the chicken nice and tender, plus it gives the chicken fingers a bit of tang. Love it!
Pop the chicken into the fridge to marinate for 15 minutes or so then make the breading. If you don’t need the dish to be gluten-free you can start with 2 cups plain bread crumbs. If you do need the dish to be gluten-free, add a heaping 4 cups Rice Chex to a food processor then process until you have very fine crumbs – about 2 cups worth. This is the gluten-free bread crumb swap I use for absolutely everything I want to have a little crunch!
Pour the bread crumbs into another shallow baking dish then add my homemade seasoning salt mix – I just looked at the ingredients on a jar of Lowry’s then added a few more of my favorite spices. That’s 2-1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon each pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less.) Mix everything up then set aside for now.
Time to start the Everything Sauce!
If you used your food processor to make Rice Chex crumbs, give it a rinse then dry with a towel, and then add 1/2 – 1 roughly chopped jalapeno with seeds and ribs removed, 1 chopped green onion, 3 leaves torn basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the bowl then pulse until the ingredients are well chopped.
Isn’t this the most inspired combination of ingredients? I told Ben when he was making our arancini that I just wanted marinara sauce for dipping, but I was so happy he made this instead. Oh, and I am pretty sensitive to spice but 1 jalapeno wasn’t bad in here. If you’re super sensitive, or serving this to kids, I’d use 1/2 jalapeno.
Next melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-low heat then sprinkle in 2 Tablespoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour (dish will not be GF if using AP flour.) Whisk while cooking for 1 minute (mixture will be crumbly,) then add the jalapeno/green onion mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is tender.
Very slowly stream in 3/4 cup milk (any kind – I used unsweetened almond milk,) while whisking constantly to remove lumps, season with more salt and pepper, and then cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, 1-2 minutes.
Last step is to pour the sauce back into the food processor then whip for 15 seconds or so, or until smooth. Everything sauce = DONE! Pop the sauce into the fridge to chill while we get our fried chicken on! Oh, just a note – the sauce will taste different chilled vs hot so taste for salt and pepper again before serving.
Back to the chicken! Take the chicken out from the fridge then, working in batches, remove from the buttermilk, shaking off excess, then roll in the seasoned crumbs until well coated.
Place onto a foil-lined baking sheet then repeat with the remaining ingredients. NOW, you could pop the chicken back into the fridge for 10 minutes to help set the coating or, if time is of the essence, proceed to frying. You might lose a little bit of breading in the oil but overall the chicken fingers will still taste just as good if you skip the setting step.
Add 1″ vegetable or grapeseed oil to a large cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat (you can start this while the coated chicken is setting in the fridge, or while you’re breading the chicken if you’re going straight to the fryer.) Test the heat by dropping in a bit of the breading. If it stays on the surface and sizzles constantly but not ferociously, it’s ready.
Add the chicken fingers, 4 or 5 at a time being careful not to overcrowd the pan, then fry until golden brown on one side before flipping and frying until golden brown on the other – 1-2 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet then just keep going!
I will say that you probably won’t be able to get done frying the whole recipe before your family starts swooping down on the hot chicken fingers, so have the dipping sauce nearby, and let everyone go to town!
Chicken Fingers with Everything Sauce
Your family is going to flip for crispy Chicken Fingers with Everything Sauce! Crunchy chicken fingers served with a homemade dipping sauce that's great with just about everything.
- 2lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1" strips
- 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
- heaping 4 cups gluten-free Rice Chex OR 2 cups bread crumbs (dish will not be GF if using traditional bread crumbs)
- 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- vegetable or grapeseed oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
- For the Everything Sauce:
- 1/2 - 1 jalapeño (depending on how sensitive you are to spice,) seeds and ribs removed then roughly chopped
- 1 green onion, roughly chopped
- 3 basil leaves, torn
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour (dish will not be GF if using AP flour)
- 3/4 cup milk (any kind - I used unsweetened almond milk)
- salt and pepper
- Add chicken strips to a shallow dish then cover with buttermilk and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pulverize Rice Chex in a food processor until very fine then pour into another shallow baking dish (omit this step if using regular bread crumbs.) Add spices, salt through cayenne pepper, to the crumbs then mix well to combine and set aside.
- For the Everything Sauce: Rinse out food processor then dry with a towel. Add jalapeno, green onion, basil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, then pulse until ingredients are well chopped and then set aside.
- Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat then sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook for 1 minute while whisking (mixture will be crumbly,) then add jalapeno/green onion mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Very slowly stream in milk while whisking constantly to smooth out lumps then season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for a minute or two, or until mixture has slightly thickened. Scrape sauce into food processor then whip until smooth. Taste then add salt and pepper if necessary and then place into the refrigerator to chill.
- Setup a breading station for the chicken fingers: dish with chicken, dish with seasoned crumbs, and a foil-lined baking sheet. Working in batches, remove chicken fingers from buttermilk, shaking excess off, then roll in seasoned crumbs until well coated, and then place on baking sheet. Continue with remaining chicken strips then refrigerate for 10 minutes to help set the breading (if time is of the essence you can skip the refrigerating step.)
- Pour 1" oil in a large cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat then heat until hot (see notes for checking oil temperature.) Add 4-6 chicken fingers to the oil, being carful not to overcrowd the pan. Turn heat up slightly if necessary to compensate for adding the cold chicken then turn the heat back down once its comes back up to temperature. Fry chicken until golden brown on one side then flip and fry until golden brown on the other - 1-2 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel lined baking sheet then continue with remaining chicken fingers. Serve chicken fingers with dipping sauce.
- I like Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Sweet Rice Flour for thickening sauces and soups.
- To test the oil's heat I dropped a few pieces of the breading mixture into the oil. When it sunk and had very few bubbles, the oil was too cold. When it stayed in the middle but had a few bubbles, it was still too cold. When it stayed on the surface and bubbled consistently but not ferociously, the oil was hot enough.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
We hardly ever make fried food at home but when we indulge in the future, this is the recipe I’m turning to! Hope you enjoy!