I am so thrilled that one of my closest friends in the whole world is expecting her fifth child in just a few weeks. I am truly elated to have a new baby to hold, hug and love. Having been through this before, my dear friend knows it’s going to be a busy summer and she’s smart enough to be thinking ahead. You see, she’s determined to feed her family healthy and homemade foods, but knows that it may be tough to accomplish this with a new baby. That’s why we’ve decided to cook and freeze meals ahead of time; delicious dinners she’ll be able to simply re-heat at the end of a long hot day. Last week, we got together an in just two hours made several pounds of chicken tenders and five lasagnas, kid tested dishes guaranteed to please her family. We figure she’ll be able to build a dozen or so dinners around these basics.
While time ticks away, two challenges await us in the next few weeks:
Will she resist the temptation to use those dinners before the baby comes? (No biggy if she doesn’t since they are helpful no matter what and we can make a big batch to replenish.) And will we be able to carve out more time in the next few crazy busy weeks to make more meals together? (If not, it’s ok since my friend Christina and I are planning to make more meals for her. Shhh. . .don’t tell!)
It’s all good: cooking with my wonderful friend for an exciting time ahead. Food is a fulfilling gift, and making it with a friend adds a meaningful dimension.
Golden Chicken Tenders
Makes 48 chicken tenders
It’s the simplicity of this recipe that makes it so enticing. Well, that plus knowing that our families will do everything short of licking their plates clean after a meal of these crispy, succulent tenders! They freeze and reheat well, making them a sure bet for kids’ weekday meals and a healthy alternative to fast food. To shake things up and introduce new flavors to otherwise picky eaters, pair them with fun dipping sauces, or add a bit of your favorite spice to the flour, such as a curry powder or Cajun seasoning. Other options are to use the chicken tenders as a topping on a pesto pizza, as the base for Chicken Parmesan or on top of a salad.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (more if needed)
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup olive oil (or enough to generously coat the bottom of a large skillet)
Prepare your workspace: place plastic wrap over the counters near the stove (this helps make cleanup easier), and line a plate with paper towels. Place a chicken breast on your work surface. Hold your hand flat on top of the breast and, using a sharp knife, slice horizontally through the middle of the breast to make two thin cutlets. Slice the cutlets crosswise into thirds. (You should get 6 strips per chicken breast.)
Set two shallow bowls next to the stovetop. In the one closest to the stove, add the flour and in the other, whisk together the eggs.
Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Coat a few pieces of chicken with flour, tapping off the excess, then dip in the egg to coat, and then dredge through the flour, tapping off the extra. When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces (enough to comfortably fit in the pan without overcrowding and cooling the oil) and cook until browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and turn the chicken pieces over, cooking the other side until browned and crisp, another 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and repeat with the remaining chicken tenders. (Add more paper towels if the first layer gets too soaked with oil.) To freeze, lay chicken tenders on a baking sheet and place uncovered in the freezer until tenders harden, from 30-60 minutes. Transfer to gallon sized freezer bags.