I often struggle to please everyone at my dinner table. Let me rephrase that. Not everyone at my dinner table is always pleased. But I don’t usually agonize about it. In the early years of foodie plus two or three, I felt like a short-order cook. Being overly concerned that my wee ones were getting proper nutrition, I hovered and worried when they didn’t eat enough “good” food. Now, through necessity and pure exhaustion, what you see is what you get. If it’s not on the table, you’re not eating it, except perhaps for an apple or banana when someone’s extra hungry.
Although I can’t say this philosophy always makes for a happy table, more often than not, we eat in relative peace without going back and forth from kitchen to table like waiters. G and I have concluded (after 11 years of trial and many errors) that serving dinner family style and limiting the choices helps everyone relax and focus a little more on each other through conversation and a little less on the food (except for the oohs and ahhs of a really delicious dinner – those are always welcome).
But back to the food. I’ve discovered that the food I prepare for my children also can be appealing to adults. It just takes some planning and creativity. Here is a perfect illustration of how this works. Most children love chicken fingers. I have to say that I cringe when they eat nuggets or strips at fast food joints. There’s nothing more unappetizing to me than biting into a piece of “chicken” and realizing that it is really a thousand shreds of stuff pressed into the shape of chicken. Gross. Thus, we often skip the drive thru’s (except Starbucks—my vitamin on certain days). I started making our own crispy chicken tenderloins, but something was missing. While my little foodies were happily dunking the strips in ketchup, my husband and I were not so thrilled. So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Tomato Relish (doesn’t “chutney” sound better?), I tried and tweaked it until—yum. Now we can all sit down to a meal that we enjoy without the adults feeling like we’re eating a Happy Meal.
And in case anyone was wondering what to stuff into my stocking, remember these green bags? I’m finally out of them. This lettuce was in my refrigerator for 9 days—9 DAYS!—and look how fantastic it looks. Perfect for a salad with our panko-crusted chicken.
Panko-crusted Chicken with Tomato Chutney
inspired by You’ve Got Supper
For the chicken:
- 2 lbs. chicken tenderloins (if using boneless chicken breasts, slice horizontally then pound them until thin so they cook evenly)
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs (find these either with the regular breadcrumbs or in the Asian section of your market)
- 1–2 tablespoons McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning, depending on desired saltiness
- 1 cup flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup vegetable oil, divided
For the chutney:
- 1 14.5-oz can plain diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 2 tablespoons olive tapenade
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (adjust to desired tartness)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2–3 tablespoons olive oil, depending on desired consistency (I like mine on the thick side)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with paper towels. Line another baking sheet with foil.
- Mix together ingredients for the chutney. Set aside.
- In three rimmed plates or pie tins, put the flour, the beaten eggs, and the breadcrumbs mixed with the Montreal Chicken seasoning.
- Dredge each tenderloin in flour, pat off the excess flour, then dip into the egg, followed by a roll in the breadcrumbs. Put on a plate and repeat with the remaining tenderloins.
- Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- When hot (chicken should sizzle when put in the pan), add as many chicken strips as fit without touching. Turn when golden, about 3 minutes for each side. When both sides are golden, remove and drain on the baking sheet with paper towels. Cook in batches, adding more oil as necessary. (Make sure to bring the additional oil up to temperature before adding more chicken. If there are bits that are blackening in the pan, remove them with a strainer spoon.)
- Keep chicken hot by transferring to the foil-lined pan and putting in the oven. Serve chicken warm with the chutney.
- Serves 6-8.