Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crispy 'chik'n' strips with fries

I do try to eat well, I really do. I never crave a burger, but I do love chicken strips. How to make them a little healthier and without a stomachache after devouring them?

My 'little' cousin, Dusty, has always loved chicken nuggets, more than anyone I know. He's a little older now (and not so little at over 6 feet tall), so his obsession with the famous dippers has subsided but the memories are still there. Truly, if he couldn't eat/order chicken nuggets, chicken tenders or even chicken wheels (don't ask) during the first 8 years of his life, I'm not sure he would've survived. I suppose there are always french fries...
which is another thing. French fries. I don't care what you say, I'd like to not extinguish these from my life forever. But we need healthier ways to eat these little jewels.

In comes the oven. Using a combo of recipes from others, I made crispy 'chik'n' strips and fries (Idaho  and sweet potato) for dinner while watching the double matinee of football games. (Okay, Matt watched, I cooked.) If tofu kind of freaks you out, this is a nice introduction. The strips are flavorful, not slimy, and really tasty, actually. Hope you enjoy.

Crispy Chik'n Strips
 (adapted from Oh She Glows and Growing Up Veg)
Makes 8 strips--serves two to four adults
I've put the ingredients and supplies in bold to make it easier. 

1 pound extra firm tofu
kitchen towel
2 heavy books
step one (prep the tofu): Drain the tofu from the package and wrap in a towel. Place 2 heavy books on top of it to drain out all of the moisture. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Line/spray 2 baking sheets, one for strips and one for fries.

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or cereal (I used Rice Krispies)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 t. of each: kosher salt, cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 t. of cinnamon & cayenne (or a dash of red pepper flakes)
step two (make the breading): In a large bowl, mix the above ingredients. Crush the cereal before adding, if you have cereal. Preheat oven to 400!

1/2 cup milk
1 TB cornstarch
1/2 t. of each: kosher salt, cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 t. cinnamon & cayenne (or a dash of red pepper flakes)
step three (make the dipper): In a medium bowl, whisk the above ingredients.

1 Idaho potato (Dash: sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder)
1 sweet potato (Dash: sea salt, cinnamon, chili powder)
2 TB olive oil
step four (prep the fries): Cut each potato into fry shapes and toss in the spices and 1 TB olive oil. Do one potato at a time (garlic on sweet potatoes seems ick). Spread the fries onto one of the baking sheets, taking care to make sure they don't overlap.

step five (bread 'em): Slice tofu into 8 long strips. Dip each tofu strip in the liquid and then into the topping. Place breaded strips onto the 2nd baking sheet. Repeat 'dip and top' process for all of them.

step six (bake): Put the strips on the top/middle rack of the oven and the fries on the bottom rack. Bake for 20 minutes and then flip strips and fries. Bake another 15-20 minutes, watching carefully toward the end so you don't scorch the fries. The strips should be crispy brown but not overly dry.

I am sad to report that we had NO leftovers...devoured. Done.
**These recipes easily double, triple, quad, depending on the size of your group.

Aioli in the middle
The Dips
I served with 3...
-chili aioli
-bbq sauce

Chili Aioli
1/4 cup mayo (vegan, reg, lowfat, whatever)
1 1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. cumin
Dash kosher salt
Dash red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon slice (optional) 

Mix all together and serve cold. Dip away.

Now one last thing...
Happy 92nd birthday (Thursday) to my grandmother. In memory of a long, fruitful life of loving God and loving people. 
I mention her influence on my love for food and cooking quite regularly here, but she touched all areas of my life for the better. What a lady. I must admit, she only liked the crispy-not "soggy"-fries, so we ate lots of crispy ones in her honor. I love and miss her dearly. My parents gifted our home church with these flowers Sunday morning in memory of her birthday. Beautiful...thanks for that. She was a pink flower girl, with a splash of purple.  

Happy eating and happy living!

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