Pssst: 8 Very "Adult" Ways to Eat Chicken Fingers for Dinner

October 10, 2016

The recipe for the best chicken tenders on earth? According to Amanda Hesser in A New Way to Dinner, it belongs to her co-author, Merrill Stubbs.

Merrill makes hers with thighs (as opposed to the less-flavorful breasts, though you could use either), seasons them with oregano and Parmesan, and gives an option for cooking them in the oven on a baking sheet of browning butter—a neater alternative to frying that doesn't sacrifice the flavor.

While chicken fingers can't be dinner every night (but, Mom!), they can be repurposed into a number of meals that are different (and delicious) enough that you won't mind—or even know!—that you're repeating.

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Make a double batch at the beginning of the week...

...and eat as many as you'd like! Then store the cooled chicken fingers (you'll have about two dozen) in an airtight container in the fridge.

Then, for the next four days, turn them into something new like this:

  • (Almost instant!) Chicken Parmesan. Layer the cooked tenders with tomato sauce, sliced mozzarella cheese, and herbs (or even pesto). Ta-da!
  • All hail chicken Caesar. Warm the chicken tenders (Merrill reheats them on a baking sheet, uncovered, in a 300° F oven), then slice them into strips and serve over a Caesar salad (or any salad that needs some bulking up, for that matter). Pro move: Sprinkle the tenders with finely grated Parmesan before you rewarm them. (You could also make this a sandwich! Keep reading.)
  • Open your own sandwich shop. With chicken tenders in the fridge, you're more than halfway to...
    -- Green Goddess Chicken Sandwiches (just add avocado-herb-yogurt sauce) AND
    -- Chicken, Caponata, and Pesto Sandwiches (just add your favorite caponata and a slather of pesto) AND
    -- Chicken Tortas (plus roughly mashed black beans, pickled jalapeños, and avocado slices)!
  • Chicken ramen(ish). Make soup with miso paste and chicken stock (and vegetables or various seaweeds, if you have them!). Boil ramen noodles (or udon, or rice noodles) in a separate pot, then spoon your broth over top. Add chunks of cubed chicken tenders as a garnish.
  • Piccata it. Remember when we said you can picatta anything? We meant it. Warm the chicken in the oven. Meanwhile, sauté onions in some oil on the stovetop, then add chicken stock, lemon juice, and a splash of white wine. Add lots of capers, let it bubble and reduce (add a spoonful of flour if you want it to be thicker!), then ladle over the chicken. Might as well have some pasta with this, too!
  • Chinese chicken salad. At Joan's on Third in Los Angeles, the Chinese chicken salad is made with breaded chicken. Yours can be, too!
  • Chicken enchiladas. Start with this guideline, using chopped chicken fingers as the protein in your filling.
  • Very easy chicken Milanese. Warm your chicken in a sauté pan with a little olive, then spritz with lemon juice and top with arugula tossed with salt, pepper, and another squeeze of lemon.

What's your favorite kids' food to serve to adults? Tell us in the comments!

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The Dynamite Chicken cookbook is here! Get ready for 60 brand-new ways to love your favorite bird. Inside this clever collection by Food52 and chef Tyler Kord, you'll find everything from lightning-quick weeknight dinners to the coziest of comfort foods.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Connor Bower
    Connor Bower
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I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Connor B. October 10, 2016
I'm glad to see that my chicken tender + instant ramen combo in college wasn't as outlandish of an idea as I thought. I feel validated.
Nornee October 10, 2016
I'm confused because the recipe in the link calls for chicken breasts cooked on the stovetop.
Sarah J. October 10, 2016
Sorry about that! Seems like the oven technique from the book isn't the same as the stovetop frying outlined here. To cook the chicken fingers in the oven, heat it to 450° F and melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a rimmed baking sheet until foaming. Bake the tenders for 10 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10 minutes, until cooked through and golden-brown on all sides.
Nornee October 10, 2016
Sorry, but another question! The recipe says it yields 10-12, but in your narrative, it says the recipe yields about 2 dozen. Am I supposed to cut them smaller?
Sarah J. October 10, 2016
If you double it, you'll get about two dozen. Then you can store some as leftovers! Hope that helps!
Nornee October 10, 2016
Thanks for your quick response. Is that cooking time in oven for thighs or breasts?
Sarah J. October 10, 2016
Breasts or thighs—I'm going to update the recipe page right now so that it's all in one place. Thanks for your patience!