Monday, May 17, 2010

Oven Fried with a Dip

I've been playing with Panko and oven frying again and discovered another tasty chicken recipe I'd like to share. I was in the mood for something Asian. And spicy. I thought of different ingredients in the Asian kitchen and needed something that would stand up to the crispiness of the Panko. I opted for sesame seeds. I'm just recently a fan of these little morsels and have been trying them in various recipes lately. So then I thought about adding some heat. I didn't take the cayenne pepper route but decided a good sized helping of Dijon mustard might work. But the best part (as usual) was the dipping sauce that is Asian all the way and can be spiced up as much or as little as you like. And can be re-mixed until your heart's content.

I originally made this recipe with thin cut chicken breasts. I have now been cutting them into 1-1/2 inch slices and calling them fingers. They are great as appetizers, snacks or even a main course. So let's get cooking. As we did last time with Panko, you'll need to set up a dredging station with 3 dishes- one for the flour, one for the egg whites and one for the Panko.

Sesame Chicken Fingers with Asian Dipping Sauce

1 lb chicken breasts sliced lengthwise into 1-1/2 inch strips
1/4 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 egg whites
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 cup Panko bread flakes
2 T sesame seeds (they can be either toasted or untoasted)
1-1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp kosher salt
cooking spray

Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp "hot" toasted sesame oil
1/2 scallion white and green parts, sliced 1/4 inch

To make the chicken: Pre heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Originally I had been using parchment, but if you don't have the highest quality parchment it begins to brown at about 425 degrees. Foil is safer and cheaper. And I use it now for most of my high temp baking. Anyway, take a wire cooling rack, give it a quick spritz with cooking spray and place it on top of your baking sheet. This is what you'll be cooking your chicken on. Wash chicken, pat dry and set aside.

On to the dredging station. In plate #1 combine flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. In plate #2 mix egg whites with mustard and whisk until emulsified. In plate #3 combine Panko, sesame seeds, minced onion, salt and pepper. Now you're ready for the dredge dance. Take your chicken and dredge it in the flour mixture. Shake off any extra flour. Take floured chicken strip and dip in the egg batter. Now dip into the Panko mixture. Make sure Panko mixture completely covers the chicken. Spritz both sides of chicken with cooking spray and place on rack. Continue the dance (I mean the process) until all chicken pieces are coated. Bake in center rack of oven for 12 minutes. Turn chicken over and bake another 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

To make the dipping sauce: While chicken is cooking, combine all ingredients (except scallion slices) in a small jar. Shake until incorporated. Pour into serving dish and garnish with scallions. If you've noticed, I've used 2 different kinds of sesame oil here.

One is very hot, enhanced with chili pepper. One is simply toasted. Use the measurements I've suggested and see if this is the right amount of heat for your taste buds. I'm a pretty spicy gal and this combo works for me. If you want it hotter, dip at your own risk.

How about a dip re-mix? Omit the scallions and add some peeled, thinly sliced ginger and chopped cilantro. Or float some sesame seeds in the dip itself. Carry the hint of mustard into the dip by adding a dollop or two and whisk or shake until emulsified. Not everybody's a fan of hot, so if that's you, use the regular toasted sesame oil and omit the other. And if you prefer a sweeter dip, add some honey. One last idea- (I'm trying not to get carried away), add the honey and the mustard at the same time. Play with some ideas and see what you like best.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Vacations are wonderful. Re-entry into the real world however is not so wonderful. I've been back from Aruba two weeks and am almost feeling like my old self again. I can't say that's good, but it's darn hard getting anything accomplished when you're still in that Caribbean state of mind.

Before we talk food, I'd like to tell you about my trip, with a little background to boot. Jeannine (from Canada) and I met about 15 years ago in a resort not too far from Aruba. She lives 500 miles north west of Toronto and craves the sun and sand as much as I do. We became fast friends and travel buddies since, and have visited Turks and Caicos, Mexico (a few times), Punta Cana, and Bermuda . And then we discovered Aruba. Ahh. Aruba. I believe this was our third trip there. We always stay at the Tamarjin Hotel where all the rooms (bungalos) are ON THE BEACH. Walk out your back door and take a dip in the sea. Yes. That is the allure of the Tam.

Everything at the hotel is low key and relaxing. If you're a beach bum, you're in heaven. And if you have a hankering for reptilian critters, you'll make a lot of new friends.

There's a lovely downtown area 5 minutes from the hotel with a marina, gazillions of high end jewelry shops and boutiques, restaurants, casinos, and a colorful 2-3 block bazzaar with stalls filled with everything from junk you'd never buy to very nice clothes and accessories. And the bus trip costs $2.30 round trip.

And in the evening, the sunsets are spectacular. Every. Night.

The first weekend I was home I had no desire to food shop, cook or unpack my bags. But a girl's got to eat something other than peanut butter and crackers. So after a quick trip to the market to get cat food and a few essentials I decided to make one of my simple, go-to dishes. A Mediterranean-inspired pasta salad. Simple. Healthy. And quite tasty. Almost all the ingredients are in your pantry, and if not, definately in your local supermarket.
Mediterranean-Inspired Pasta Salad
1 cup penne pasta, uncooked
4 scallions sliced 1/2 inch
10 to 12 pitted Kalamata olives halved
1 14 oz can quartered artichokes in water drained
1 pint grape tomatoes halved
1 T capers drained
1 5 oz can tuna, drained and flaked
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 1 T red wine vinegar (I add more)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
To make the salad:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain. Place pasta in large mixing bowl and add the rest of the salad ingredients.
To make the dressing:
Combine all ingredients in a medium size jar and shake until combined. *note- I like my dressings a little more acidic than some, so I often add another T of vinegar. Taste the dressing to see if it's to your liking, before you add too much. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss. It's perfect at room temperature or refrigerate until you're ready to eat.

Remix-Sometimes I don't add tuna and use a can of drained, rinsed cannellini beans. Then I add 4 ounces of crumbled goat cheese. The goat cheese adds a tangy creaminess that is so complementary to all the ingredients. I also suggest adding 1/2 tsp dried oregano and/or crushed red pepper flakes to the dressing. My simple rule with a pantry salad like this is to have at least 2 fresh vegetables in the mix. In mine I chose the tomatoes and scallions.