I was a really picky eater growing up, like sort of embarrassingly picky looking back…but I was always up for chicken strips or nuggets. In fact, even if they weren’t on the menu, I’d do my best to find a way to order them. At Chinese restaurants, for example, I would order sweet and sour chicken without the sauce and dip the fried chicken pieces in ketchup – yep, I was that kid. In high school, I always inhaled a plate of chicken tenders with my girlfriends at our favorite hangout, T.G.I. Friday’s. And even though I enjoy just about every kind of cuisine now, I still love chicken strips, and recently decided it was finally about time to make a grown-up version at home!
I coated my chicken strips with ground walnuts and bread crumbs. While they were baking in the oven, I whipped up a fall-inspired dipping sauce with apple cider. I stuck a spring of rosemary in the juice and simmered it on the stove under it reduced a bit. Then I added in some mascarpone cheese and a roux of butter and flour to thicken it up. The sweet sauce complimented the walnut flavor really well! I served the meal with some roasted butternut squash, but I think sweet potato fries would be even better!
Walnut Chicken Strips with Rosemary Cider Sauce
Walnut Chicken Strips:
1 1/2 cups walnuts, pulsed in the food processor until finely ground
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into strips (I had 4-5 per chicken breast)
3 eggs, beaten
Rosemary Cider Sauce:
1 cup apple cider
1 small sprig of rosemary
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the chicken strips, heat oven to 350˚F. Mix ground walnuts, bread crumbs, and salt in a shallow pan. Put the flour in a shallow dish and lightly dredge both sides of the chicken in it. Place the beaten eggs in another shallow dish and dredge both sides of the flour coated chicken in the egg mixture; place chicken in the walnut mixture and coat well on all sides. Place coated chicken strips in a greased 13×9-inch baking dish and bake at 350˚F for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the center.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the apple cider and rosemary sprig in a small pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Strain mixture into a small bowl and whisk in mascarpone cheese until smooth. Heat butter over medium high heat in a small pan until melted. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook one minute or until mixture starts to brown. Add in apple cider mascarpone cheese mixture and salt and whisk until smooth. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture thickens, whisking constantly. Serve sauce with chicken strips. Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition: 591 calories, 33.2g fat, 2.7g fiber, 47.3g protein per serving
Cost: $1.58 per serving