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~ Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #1: Panko-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Ginger-y 'Duck' Sauce ~

IMG_9727T.G.I.F!  On Wednesday, I found myself snacking on a plate of chicken tenders in a local pub with my husband.  It was the first real break he and I have had to relax since "the holidays left the building".  As I've mentioned before, I love it when I get an inspiration for a blog post from a reader or a spur-of-the-moment real-life event.  While washing my crunchy chicken tenders down with an ice-cold beer, I mentioned to Joe that it would be fun to dedicate a few days on Kitchen Encounters to chicken tender recipes.  After all, everyone loves chicken tenders!

IMG_9735As my No.1 taste-tester, Joe was all for this idea, but he commented that "his guess was" the recipe-world is saturated with all sorts of recipes for Buffalo tenders, BBQ tenders, Tex-Mex tenders, and, his least favorite: "the Italian Parmesan-crusted kind with Marinara sauce" (he much prefers real-deal chicken parmesan to this type of tender).  I agreed.  So, over a second beer, we disussed what kind of chicken tender recipes I should post.  The unanimous winner:  Asian style!  

IMG_9428We decided that I would spend the weekend posting three recipes for Asian-style chicken tenders along with three Asian dipping sauces!

What's more, I wanted three chicken tender recipes, and three sauce recipes, that could be used interchangeably, and, could be served all together at an Asian-themed cocktail party!

IMG_9595Before doing your grocery shopping or starting to cook any of my next three recipes, I suggest you click into Categories 16 or 25 to read: ~ Love Me Tender(s):  Is there a difference between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender?  Yes! ~.  This super-tender, easy to work with part of the chicken is indeed worth the few extra pennies it will cost! 

Would you like some fruity, ginger-y 'duck' sauce with that?  

6a0120a8551282970b0176169aec86970c-320wiA bit about "duck" sauce:  All of us are familiar with those packets of an orange, sticky and sweet condiment that come with Chinese takeout.  Real "duck" sauce is actually made using fresh plums, apricots or peaches, some rice vinegar, ginger, sugar and spices.  In reality, "duck" sauce isn't duck sauce at all.  It is plum sauce.  When Chinese food was being Westernized, plum sauce was served as a condiment for Peking duck (instead of the traditional hoisin sauce) and it quickly picked up the nickname "duck" sauce!

IMG_9566Wait until you see how easy this is!

For the "duck" sauce:

1/2  cup apricot preserves

1/2  cup mango & ginger chutney*

1/4  cup water

* Mango & ginger chutney contains many of the same ingredients in "duck" sauce.  It is a fabulous, flavor-packed time-saving "secret" to a quick Asian "duck" sauce!

IMG_9571 IMG_9568~ Step 1. Place the preserves, chutney and water in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer gently for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  

Remove from heat, cover and set aside to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes.


~ Step 2.  Transfer mixture to a blender or a small food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth, about 30-45 seconds.  Serve slightly warm, or:

IMG_9581~ Step 3. Place in a food storage container and cool, uncovered, until sauce is at room temperature. Tightly cover and store indefinitely in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave just prior to serving.

Recipe yields 1 1/4 cups of sauce.

PLEASE pass the crunchy panko-crusted tenders!

IMG_9590For the chicken tenders:

1 1/2 pounds, large, meaty chicken tenderloins, about 8-9

1  cup all-purpose flour

4  large eggs, at room temperature + enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid 

2  tablespoons Thai soy sauce

4  cups panko breadcrumbs*

peanut or corn oil for frying

freshly ground sea salt

6a0120a8551282970b0154383e5645970c-320wi* "Panko" is the Japanese word for "bread crumbs" and theirs are considerably crispier and crunchier than our Western-style dried breadcrumbs.  What's more, they absorb less grease, more flavor and stay crispy a lot longer.  Nowadays, panko is  readily available in all grocery stores, and, an 8-ounce box or bag will contain the 4 cups necessary for this recipe.  What's not to love about that!

IMG_9607~ Step 1.  Organize what I like to refer to as "a breading assembly line" (from left to right):  1) An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 1 cup of all-purpose flour.  2)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 4 large eggs that have been whisked together with enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid + 2 tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce.  3)  A 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish containing 2 cups of the panko breadcrumbs (reserve the remaining 2 cups).

IMG_9456~ Step 2.  At the wide, meaty end of each tenderloin you will notice a little white nub.  This is a harmless tendon, and, you don't need to worry about removing it entirely because the part of the tendon inside of the the tenderloin is paper-thin and unnoticeable after cooking.  In fact, if you try to remove it all, it is likely the tender will fall apart. Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the visible piece of tough nub. 

IMG_9623 IMG_9619~ Step 3. One-at-a-time, dredge each chicken tender in the flour to coat it on all sides,  placing them all back in the dish of flour as you work.  When all of the chicken pieces are coated in flour...

IMG_9630 IMG_9628




~ Step 4. One-at-a-time give each chicken tender a shake, to remove any excess flour, and place it in the egg-soy mixture. Using your fingertips, flip it over once or twice, to evenly coat it in the wet mixture.

Lift it out of the liquid and give it a shake, to allow any excess liquid to drizzle back into the dish...

IMG_9643 IMG_9635~ Step 5. ... Place it in the baking dish of panko. Continue until all tenders are in the baking dish with the panko. When all of the tenders are in, add the remaining two cups of panko. Using your fingertips, toss to thoroughly coat each tender in panko.  Set aside about 5 minutes.

IMG_9656~ Step 6.  In an electric skillet, heat about 1/4" of peanut oil to 350 degrees.  While the oil is heating, place a large cooling rack over a layer of paper towels.

Note:  An electric skillet works great for frying chicken tenders because it controls the heat precisely.  If you do not have one, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

IMG_9680 IMG_9665~ Step 7. Carefully place the tenders in the skillet of hot oil and fry, until golden brown, about 3 1/2 minutes per side, turning only once.  This timing will vary.  If you are using smaller tenders, they can be done in as little as 2 1/2 minutes per side.  

IMG_9690~ Step 8.  Using a pair of tongs, remove from skillet, place on a cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with salt.  Serve warm or at room temperature with duck sauce for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_9757Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #1:  Panko-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Ginger-y 'Duck' Sauce:  Recipe yields 8 hearty appetizers or snacks and 1 1/4 cups sauce.

Special Equipment List:  1-quart saucepan; blender or small food processor; 1 1/2-2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; 1-cup measuring container; fork; kitchen shears; electric skillet or 12"-14" skillet placed on stovetop; large cooling rack; paper towels; tongs

6a0120a8551282970b017743813563970d-320wiCook's Note:  To try another one of my yummy appetizers that uses this flavor-packed recipe for Chinese duck sauce, you can find my recipe for ~ TGIF:  Mel's Make-Ahead Asian Cocktail Meatballs ~ in Categories 1, 13, 20 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)



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