Crispy Coconut Chicken Fingers to Eat on Game Day

September 22, 2014

Monday night football means meals that can be enjoyed while watching the game.  While chicken wings, chips and dip, and chili all have their place in the rotation, these crispy coconut chicken fingers are an "out of the ordinary" kind of snack.  Chicken breasts are dipped into a seasoned panko breadcrumb and coconut  mix and baked into the oven until golden brown.  Serve them with bottled sweet chili sauce or a creamy coconut curry sauce.

Coconut Chicken Fingers

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 cup panko breadcrumbs 
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon fine grain kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs 
Olive oil spray
Sweet chili sauce for dipping

Preheat the oven to 400°F and place a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a wire rack on top. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, mix panko breadcrumbs, shredded coconut, cornstarch, mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper, sesame seeds, salt and black pepper. Dip chicken strips in the eggs and let excess drip off, then drop in the panko breadcrumb mix bowl to coat on all sides.  You may have to press the breading into the tender so that it sticks. It's best to use one hand exclusively to dip in the egg mixture and the other into the coconut mixture.  Place coated chicken strips onto the wire rack on the lined baking sheet and repeat until all chicken is used.

Spray chicken tenders with olive oil spray and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.  The wire rack helps the heat circulate so that the tenders become crispy on all sides.  if you do not have an oven-proof wore rack, flip the tenders halfway through the cooking process.  When chicken strips are ready, allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet and then serve with the dipping sauce.

Note: For a vegetarian version of this recipe substitute the chicken breasts for extra-firm tofu cut into strips.  For a gluten-free version substitute the panko breadcrumbs for almond flour and the cornstarch for arrowroot powder.

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