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~ Love Me Tender(s): Is there a difference between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender? Yes! ~

IMG_9493Everyone knows what a beef, lamb, veal or pork tenderloin is, so, I just assumed everyone knew what a chicken tenderloin is too.  I was wrong.  On our way back from from running errands yesterday, Joe and I stopped by our local Home Delivery Pizza Pub for a quick mid-afternoon snack (and a beer).  Joe ordered a plate of their classic Buffalo Wings.  I was torn between the Cheddar & Potato Pierogies and the Chicken Tenders with Honey-Mustard Sauce (served with fries).  Before ordering, I asked the bartender, "are the tenders made with the actual tenderloins or sliced boneless chicken breasts"?  The bartender gave me polite "I don't know" look, and said, "I'll go check".  Fair enough.   A moment or two later, a nice fellow emerged (I think from the kitchen) to assure me the chicken tenders were indeed tenderloins, not chicken breast strips. Without hesitation, I ordered them.  The crispy tenders were finished off with coarse salt and the tangy dressing had just a hint of cayenne.  My snack (pictured above) was finger-lickin' good!

Everyone knows chickens do not have fingers!

IMG_9428You see, I adore "real-deal" chicken tenderloins, which is why I asked the question.  Furthermore, it's a valid question, since the terms "chicken fingers", "chicken tenders", "chicken strips", "tender strips" and "chicken fillets" are used interchangeably (because all refer to strips of chicken that do not include any bones or skin).  I'd like to rephrase that to say, "strips of real, not processed, strips of chicken that do not not include any bones or skin", but I'm sorry to report, this is not always the case.  Surprisingly, the food police (USDA) don't seem to have an ax to grind over this, nor do they offer a clear-cut definition of what constitutes a "chicken finger". Why not?  All of the above (all commercially-generated and carefully-marketed names for chicken breast) contain about the same weight, calorie content and nutritional value.  Fair enough, except, everyone knows chickens have many parts, none of which are fingers!

Is there any interesting food history behind the chicken finger?

IMG_9426Not that I know of.  To the best of my recollection, I never encountered them prior to the 1990's.  You see, we were all told, by the forces-to-be at the time, to cut back on eggs and red meat.  Two of my favorite foods. The boneless, skinless chicken breast revolution had begun.  It worked for a while. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts began replacing fat, juicy steaks on dinner plates in homes and restaurant dining rooms everywhere.  I refer to this as America's "rubber-chicken dinner" period. What occurred next, I believe happened because, back then, all of us rubber-chicken-hating Americans had all grown up eating real-deal moist, juicy, roasted or fried chicken with crispy, edible skin.  We disliked the new genre.  It didn't take long for us to do what we do best.  We invented ways to make this flat, boring, basically tasteless piece of poultry palatable again.  The batter-dipped, breaded and fried, daintily-portioned but calorie-laden, chicken strip was born!

A true chicken tender is the "real deal" tenderloin!

IMG_9451 IMG_9445If you have ever skinned and boned a split chicken breast, you can't help but notice that it is comprised of two pieces (both of which are muscles):  a large, flat, elongated, but triangular-ish-shaped piece, and, a long, slender, narrow, piece (located underneath the large, flat piece), comparable in shape to a finger.  Because this narrow muscle is the closest of the two in location to the spine, it is not as exercised as the large piece, which makes it an exceptionally tender piece of poultry. This my friends, is the tenderloin.  All others are the result of cutting the flat breast into 4-5 strips!

IMG_9453At 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 tenderloin is paper-thin and unnoticeable after cooking.  In fact, if you try to remove it all, it is likely the tenderloin will fall apart.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, simply clip, remove, and discard the visible piece of tough nub.  Once this is done, the tenders are ready to cook!

Please join me over the next few days, as I share three of my favorite recipes for "real-deal" chicken tenderloins, as well as, three of my accompanying sauce recipes too.  Cluck, cluck!!!

IMG_9437"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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


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