Everyone has their food weaknesses. For some it’s chocolate, for others it’s pizza, but for me, it’s chicken fingers (among a few other things). Weird I know.

You would think that as the ultimate food enthusiast, I would stick my nose up at unimaginative deep fried bar food. Think again.

Chicken fingers aren’t the most gourmet or sexiest of foods, and by god we know that they aren’t the most nutritious choice. I definitely wouldn’t consider them an acceptable meal for an adult, but, here I am, 25 years old and I still can’t get enough. I don’t know what it is, but I just love those little suckers. I imagine it’s actually the salty and crispy exterior that really gets me, after all isn’t the outside the best part on a variety of dishes? Chicken pot pie, fried chicken, gooey cheese topping on lasagna, crispy bread crumbs on mac and cheese; mmm my stomach is growling as I type. It’s almost midnight, is it too late for a snack??

Anywhoo. One night I was having a craving for some chicken fingers as I often do, but just couldn’t bring myself to serve them as a legitimate dinner. I wanted something that had the same effect – a crunchy yummy exterior but a little bit more refined.

Now, I promise that I won’t judge you if you decide to serve frozen or, a smidge better, homemade chicken fingers for dinner tonight, but I’ve found a great way to take the things that we all love about them and create a great entrée reminiscent of the shameful favorite that can actually be served to guests without blushing of embarrassment

Start by pounding out chicken to about a quarter inch thickness. If your chicken breasts were as thick as mine were,slice them in half lengthwise to make flattening them a little bit easier. Since I’m only feeding two of us I only used one very large chicken breast. Marinating in buttermilk helps to keep the chicken extra moist and juicy.  This was the first time I tried this method but I thought, “you know if marinating fried chicken in buttermilk yields a juicy chicken, why not use this method on all chicken dishes?” Why should deep fried chicken get all the tender love and care?

Next set up your breading station. Flour seasoned with salt and pepper and a little garlic powder. Eggs mixed with about a tablespoon of water.  Panko bread crumbs seasoned with salt.  Dip each breast into the flour…..

Then the egg..(pardon me for not including a picture of the egg mixture, there was a lot going on)..then the panko. Transfer all coated chicken to a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for at least ten minutes. This will help the coating stick.  No one wants breading that falls apart the minute you cut a bite.

Melt a little bit of butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Saute chicken over medium high heat about five minutes per side until golden brown and super crispy. Like…

This!

Of course crispy chicken is wonderful in of itself, I could gobble it up in heartbeat; but adding just a little bit of arugula and parmigano lightly dressed takes it to the next level. That little addition instantaneously takes the dish from ordinary to dinner party worthy.

Top with arugula and parmesan; drizzle extra lemon vinaigrette over.

Crispy Chicken with Arugula & Shaved Parmesan

4 chicken breasts (if larger than average like the ones I had only use two and cut lengthwise to create four portions)

1 pint of buttermilk

1 tlbs hot sauce

¾ cup flour

¾ cup panko bread crumbs

1 egg

2 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp pepper

4 cups baby arugula loosely packed

4 tablespoons shaved Parmesan Cheese

Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon butter

Pound chicken to a ¼- ½ inch thickness. Place chicken, buttermilk, and hot sauce in shallow dish, let marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.   Mix flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tsp garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon pepper on plate or shallow dish.  Mix panko, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper on plate or shallow dish.  Mix egg and 1 tablespoon water in shallow dish or bowl.  Coat chicken in flour patting off excess. Dredge in egg mixture then coat in panko. Repeat with other chicken breasts.  Place all chicken breasts on baking sheet and chill for 10 minutes. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Place two chicken breasts in pan and brown; about three minutes on each side. Make sure to watch the heat; you may want to turn it down to medium depending on your stove. Since bread crumbs soak up grease like a sponge you made need to add extra olive oil or butter while cooking. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. (To keep chicken warm place on cookie rack on a baking sheet in a 250 degree oven; if you put the chicken directly on the baking sheet they will get soggy)

Toss arugula and enough lemon vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens. DO NOT OVERDRESS. Season with salt and pepper. Top the chicken with 1 cup of the arugula and 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese. The hot chicken will start to wilt the greens and melt the cheese. I also squeeze a little fresh lemon juice or drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over on top for an extra lemony kick.  Serve!

Lemon Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup good olive oil

Large pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

Place lemon juice in small bowl.  Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

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