Kids like chicken fingers. I feel pretty confident saying that. They're salty, they're crunchy, and it's acceptable to eat them with your hands.
Every week, I see parents in my neighborhood who wouldn't be caught dead at McDonald's tucking boxes of frozen organic chicken fingers into their shopping carts. My mother, who raised us almost entirely on homemade meals from scratch, made killer baked chicken fingers crusted with herbed breadcrumbs–and my sister and I always requested them for our birthday parties.
We have yet to give Clara chicken fingers (you can be sure that when we do I'll ask my mother for her recipe), but we've found a reasonable substitute. She didn't show much interest in chicken until I did two things: braised it with tomatoes (a magic ingredient that makes all other foods more desirable), and let her eat it off the bone. Now chicken is one of her favorite foods.
These days, I make a big batch of chicken thighs braised in tomatoes and garlic every week. We put on Clara's smock/bib and give her a thigh, and she gnaws at the meat like a little terrier until the bone is scraped clean. Once she's in bed, we enjoy shallow bowls of braised chicken thighs with tomatoey garlicky juices over orzo.
Win win. —Merrill Stubbs
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 4
chicken thighs on the bone, skin-on
large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
canned chopped tomatoes (I prefer tetra-pack)
cup chicken stock (homemade or low sodium)
Orzo or rice for serving
- Pat the chicken thighs dry. Season them liberally on all sides with salt. Heat the olive oil in large, heavy sauté pan with high sides over medium heat. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides in two batches, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of fat in the pan.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until you can smell it, about a minute. (Don't let it burn.) Add the canned tomatoes, chicken stock and a large pinch of salt, and turn the heat up until the liquid comes to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon as they loosen. Add the thyme and then nestle the chicken thighs, skin-side-up in the sauce.
- Partially cover the pan and turn down the heat so that the sauce is simmering gently. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
- If the sauce is thin, transfer the chicken to a clean plate and keep warm while you turn up the heat for a few minutes so that the sauce simmers and thickens a bit. Don't let it cook down too much -- you want this to be pretty saucy.
- Return the chicken to the sauce and heat through before serving over orzo or rice.