chicken fingers are better (gluten-free)

Chxfingers1

Sometimes a boneless, crispy, tender ‘finger’ of chicken is all you need to turn the worst day into the best day. I remember my dorm-living days, when the cafeteria would serve chicken fingers: for those who made it before they disappeared it was glorious. For those who came late, uproarious.

I started making these in a traditional, glutenous way until a dear friend discovered an intolerance to gluten. In most gluten-free replacements, it is very difficult to simulate the experience. A chewy moist croissant or a crispy pizza crust without grain flour are next to impossible and for that reason I don’t usually try. In this case it is the opposite: I stumbled upon some gluten free bread crumbs and gave it a go. After a few tries tweaking and learning I think I’ve nailed it.

Start by heating the oil. If you have a deep-fryer, then lucky you! If you live in a shoebox like I do, then a pot will have to do. Since there are only two people eating in my home, I would rather conserve the oil. For that reason I fill a small 10″ cast-iron pot with about 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil, and whack it on high. Cast iron is not necessary, but will help to maintain the temperature as it holds the heat much better than a steel pot. You will know the oil is ready for frying when a wooden skewer/wooden spoon/toothpick will bubble when submerged in the oil. This might sounds ridiculous, but it has never failed me.

While the oil is warming there is plenty of time to make a honey dill dip! It is a perfect pair for fingers, and it doesn’t need to take any time. Just combine equal parts honey and mayonnaise. I usually use 4 tablespoons of each with 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill and a pinch of pepper… Unreal.

Next will be the prepare the breading elements – remember to season each step!

Flour dredge – mix rice flour, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne evenly. The flour creates a layer that will stick to the chicken, but also makes the egg wash stick. This is an essential step to making sure the coating will stick to the chicken. Using ANY replacement flour is totally fine – wheat and gluten are not necessary for this to work.

Egg wash – Whisk eggs, salt and pepper with a fork… simple enough.

Breadcrumbs – This is the tricky part. I originally thought trying to come up with usable gluten free bread-crumbs would be a serious challenge. If you have gluten free bread around the house, then definitely use it! I found this brand of gluten free products at the Metro grocery store in Toronto called ‘Irresistibles’. After the first try, I discovered they are very hard and difficult to eat. It took a little coaxing from the magic bullet to get them finer, and it was well worth it. Mix the crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, paprika, and cayenne until even.

Chicken breasts are often considered the most expensive, least exciting cut – but let me assure you the breast is by far the best cut for these fingers (thighs will not have the right texture or grain and can become gristly ). Slice the breast into strips lengthwise, roughly an inch wide. I can usually get three strips out of one average chicken breast. Be certain the chicken is dry before starting – if needed pat with paper towel.

Try to set up with your breading station in a nice line, starting with the chicken, flour, eggs wash, bread-crumbs then the pot. I don’t like to put more than 3 or 4 strips in the oil at once because I don’t want to shock the oil cold. The constant high heat is essential in sealing the chicken and achieving a crispy (not soggy) coating. At this size, they need 3-4 minutes to cook through to become golden brown but not longer than that as they dry out quickly.

Chxfingers2

I enjoy them with a nice salad. I skip the starch on this meal and instead over-eat on the strips… but only on a bad day.

Ingredients
– 2 inches of vegetable/canola oil
– 2 average sized chicken breasts
Honey-Dill Dip
– 3 tbsp honey
– 3 tbsp mayonnaise
– 1 tbsp chopped dill
– Pinch salt n pepper
Flour Dredge
– 1 cup of flour with tsp salt n pepper
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1/2 tsp cayenne
Egg Wash 2 eggs with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper
Breadcrumbs Mixture
– 2 cups bread crumbs (gf)
– 2 tbsp dried oregano
– 2 tsp salt n pepper
– 1/2 tsp cayenne
– 1 tsp paprika
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