September 3, 2014

Baked Buffalo Chicken Strips

You know what I actually really love? Frozen chicken strips. Especially the flavored ones: the honey barbecue and the cajun style and the buffalo ones. I'm a food blogger, I'm not supposed to admit my love of processed foods to you, but there it is.

Do you know what I hate to do? Go food shopping. I blame it on my inherent dislike of interacting with people. (I'd make a really good hermit) I also hate using the carts, because they're so awkward. When you're shopping by yourself and you have a cart, how do you check out? Do you stand in front of it for ease of reaching the items and then be that weird person with no one pushing their cart? Or do you stand by the handle and pop your arms out of the socket trying to reach the items? I'm only shopping for me, so I'm never in a million years going to fill the cart, so I've got this bulky thing taking up an entire aisle, trying to squeeze past other people with the same bulky thing, for no reason other than I can't fit an 8-pack of toilet paper in a basket.

(My grocery store just started providing these smaller carts that are basically two baskets stacked on top of each other, and it's actually the greatest idea grocery stores have ever come up with.)
Any way, my point is that when I do manage to drag myself to the grocery store, I usually get things that will last me a while. I generally do get some frozen chicken or pizza to tide me over on the nights I don't feel like cooking, but I've also learned to love the value packs of meat in the butcher section. I get it home, separate it into freezer bags, and I'm rarely ever without some kind of meat for dinner. My favorite are the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They usually come about 6 to a pack, and since I'm cooking for just little ole me, that usually lasts me a good, long while.

I had a couple chicken breast defrosting in the fridge, and had a craving for some crispy chicken strips. Now, I could have just done my Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken Strips, but remember how I started this post with how much I love the flavored, frozen chicken strips? I decided I was going to make my own, healthified version.

I started by slicing the chicken into strips and marinating them right in the buffalo sauce. The longer you marinate it, the more flavor the chicken will absorb, so overnight is recommended (but if you're not a planner, you know, like me, then 2-4 hours is fine). Dredge in seasoned flour, eggs whisked with more hot sauce, and panko, and bake.

You could totally skip the flour/egg bit and just take the chicken in the sauce and toss it in panko, but I like a lot of breading and unnecessary steps.
How did they taste? Well, the buffalo flavor was definitely there but not as prominent as I would have liked. I could have tossed the cooked strips in more buffalo sauce, but I don't like my strips too saucy. Maybe next time I'll just use hot sauce instead of ready made buffalo sauce. Otherwise, they were crispy, juicy, and flavorful, just the way I like them. Served with some more buffalo sauce for dipping (or, you know, drizzled on top all fancy-like because you're a food blogger) and some homemade ranch (I used this recipe, minus the dill), and they're pretty nearly perfect

Baked Buffalo Chicken Strips
Yield: 10-12 chicken strips

1½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. buffalo sauce*
¾ cup whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
2 eggs
1½ cups unseasoned panko bread crumbs
Cooking spray
Extra buffalo sauce and ranch dressing, for dipping

In a large zip top bag, add the chicken and ½ cup buffalo sauce, making sure the chicken is well coated. Marinate in the refrigerator 2-4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and fit with a wire rack. Spray well with cooking spray.

Take 3 wide-mouthed shallow bowls. In the first, mix together the flour, cayenne, paprika, garlic, and black pepper. In the second, whisk together the eggs and the remaining buffalo sauce. Add the panko to the third.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, and use paper towels to wipe off the excess sauce. Working with one strip at a time, toss the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip in the egg wash, letting the excess egg drip off. Toss in the panko, making sure the strip is well crusted. Place on the prepared rack, spray the chicken lightly with more cooking spray, and bake 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve warm, with extra buffalo sauce and ranch dressing for dipping.

Note: I didn't add any salt because the prepared sauce usually has enough for my tastes. Feel free to add to taste. The cooking time will also vary depending on the size of your strips.

*You can use hot sauce for a more intense flavor and spice

Recipe by Kim
Om nom nom chicken strips