Recipe by Amanda DeLaura
I like to make these chicken tenders while meal prepping for the week and quickly reheat them when needed in the oven at 325ºF. You can easily double the batch and freeze a portion to have on hand as a saving grace for last-minute lunches or dinners. But if you’re cooking just for yourself, divide the recipe in half and you’ll still have plenty for a couple meals and/or a container for the freezer.
Pretty please, always cook with HFAC certified organic pasture-raised chicken. While you may be tempted to buy “free-range” chickens, don’t! Let me explain—what we now call pasture- raised chickens and eggs, are what we used to call free-range chickens when I was growing up on a little farm outside of Charlottesville, VA. To differentiate, free-range chickens simply mean chickens have “access” to outdoors, but it does not specify how much land they have access to and for how long. On the other hand, for a chicken to be deemed as pasture-raised, it must have year-long access to the outdoors and every 1,000 birds has to be regularly rotated on minimum of 2.5 acres. With the USDA’s manipulated definition of “free-range,” be sure to buy both pasture-raised chickens and eggs. You can order or pick up the very best chickens and eggs in Virginia from the lovely and local Polyface Farms, which are delivered to Charlottesville by our friends at Joyous Gardens.
Makes 4 servings
2 lbs organic, pasture-raised chicken tenders
1 cup tapioca flour (or cassava flour if preferred)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3 large eggs
4 cups raw organic pecans
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- Pat your organic chicken tenders dry with a few paper towels and set
- Prepare three large, but shallow bowls (I like to use my pasta bowls). Place the tapioca flour, garlic powder and onion powder in one bowl and whisk to combine. In the second bowl, crack the eggs and beat heavily with a fork or whisk until fully combined. Finely chop your pecans by hand or in a food processor to speed things along. Combine the pecan pieces, paprika, oregano, sea salt and black pepper in the last bowl. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Working one chicken tender at a time, coat each tender in the tapioca flour and shake off any excess flour. Dip it in the egg mixture and then coat it with the prepare pecan crumbs, pressing the pecans onto the tenders as needed. Place each pecan-crusted tender onto the prepared lined baking sheet and place the tenders in the fridge for one to three hours. This will ensure the pecans stay coated to the chicken while cooking.
- Once your chicken tenders have hydrated in the fridge, place your largest cast iron skillet on the stove under medium-low heat.
- Once heated (test by sprinkling water onto the skillet. If the water hisses, bubbles and evaporates when it hits the skillet, the skillet is warm enough to cook the chicken), pour two tablespoons of avocado oil into the skillet. Be sure to spread the oil across the entire skillet so that all surfaces of it are covered.
- Quickly remove the chicken from the fridge and place four to six tenders into the skillet or as many can fit without crowding the pan (you don’t want your chicken tenders to steam from being too densely packed in the skillet). Let them cook without moving them for four minutes. Be sure to pay close attention to how hot your skillet is. If it begins to smoke, reduce the heat.
- After the tenders have browned nicely for four minutes, flip them with your favorite pair or tongs and let them cook on the second side for another four minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Remove each tender from the skillet, wipe the skillet with a paper cloth, to remove all the extra bits of pecans, add another two tablespoons of avocado oil and repeat the process until you have cooked all of the tenders. You want to be sure to wipe the pecan crumbs and used avocado oil between batches as they both will continue to cook, burn and become ridiculously bitter. Once all of your tenders are nice and cooked, enjoy them fresh with a side of coleslaw, baked beans, roasted veggies, and/or as desired.