a while back i placed a fresh direct order, and the amount of jalapenos that was delivered was waaaay more than what i thought i was ordering! what’s a girl to do with extra jalapenos that have been lingering in the fridge for almost too long? how about jalapeno-fried chicken fingers, and a hearty salad topped with jalapeno-citrus dressing! that’s what i made for dinner (recipes below), and tomorrow’s lunch includes two good-sized chicken pieces.
the rest of the bento has brown rice topped with peas and two cute bears made from two hard boiled egg slices (nori and sesame seed facial details), a beautiful vine-ripe tomato, some steamed broccoli, three butterflies cut from fish sausage, some pea pods and clementine wedges, and some cucumber and takuwan slices.
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jalapeno-fried chicken fingers
- 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 package panko (japanese breadcrumbs)
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 eggs
- salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to taste
- 1 medium-to-large sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- get yourself a nice, big, and clean workstation, where you can set up three bowls. put the flour in the first bowl, and mix in your salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika (if you haven’t made spiced dredging flour before, start with about 1/8 teaspoon of each and add more as you like).
- in the second bowl, crack and beat the two eggs. add a few teaspoons of milk or water if needed to thin the egg mixture down.
- in the third bowl, toss your diced jalapeno with your panko. now you have your breading station, and you should line up the three bowls so that the panko/jalapeno mixture is closest to your frying pan.
- cut your chicken into approximately uniformly-sized pieces — i like mine longer and thinner (like “fingers”), but you could easily do squatter “nugget” style pieces.
- in a large frying pan, heat the oil until you can drop a piece of diced jalapeno in and it bubbles and sizzles.
- once the oil has come up to temp, bread the chicken, one piece at a time, by first dredging through the spiced flour, then dipping in the beaten egg, and then rolling through the panko/jalapeno mixture. i find it works best to use just one hand as your breading hand (just hold the chicken piece in that hand and work it through all three bowls). that way you have a clean hand left to turn on the faucet when it’s time to wash the messy hand!
- once you have about 5 or 6 pieces breaded, gently place them in the oil (if you drop them with too much force, the hot oil will splatter and burn you), and fry until both sides are golden brown (about 2 minutes on the first side and 90 seconds on the second). i like to blot the fried pieces with a paper towel and then pop them into a 375-degree oven for a few extra minutes, just to make absolutely sure they are cooked through.
- you will want to fry the chicken in batches (that’s why i said 5 or 6 pieces for the first go), being careful not to crowd the pan. crowding the pan will result in stuck-together pieces and non-uniform browning.
jalapeno-citrus salad dressing
- light syrup from a can of mandarin orange slices (if you don’t have a can handy, you can make a simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar in a pan and stirring over a low flame until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened — the mandarin flavor is lovely here though, and worth the price of the can)
- juice from 1.5 limes
- 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar (plain white vinegar is fine too)
- 1 small to medium sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
- 1 kiwi, skin removed, cut into chunks
- 4 mint leaves
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- in a food processor, blend about 1/2 cup mandarin (or simple) syrup with the lime juice, vinegar and jalapeno, until the jalapeno is finely ground and gives the syrup a green-speckled, slightly opaque appearance
- add the chunked kiwi and mint, and continue blending until thoroughly ground
- through the pouring hole on the food processor container, pour a thin stream of olive oil, allowing the food processor blade to emulsify the dressing
- season the dressing to your liking
the dressing is super simple, right? it’s deliciously tangy, and removing the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno makes it just spicy enough to give the dressing a real kick (a bit of an after-burn, actually), but without setting your entire mouth on fire. i like this dressing over a salad of spinach leaves, chunked avocado, kernels of sweet corn, thinly-sliced red onion, chunked (or grape) tomatoes, and some sliced jalapeno-fried chicken fingers!
speaking of those, here is a picture of the finished product: