Few foods are as big a hit as crisp chicken tenders, and Italian doyenne Lidia Bastianich's simple recipe goes above and beyond all expectations with a crust of crispy panko bread crumbs and Grana Padano cheese—a milder and slightly sweet version of Parmesan. Served with a no-fuss green salad, they're the perfect quick weeknight dinner.
When slicing the chicken breasts, start two to three inches from the smaller end, slicing at an angle toward the tip. When reaching the larger end of the chicken breast, butterfly it open, naturally creating a half-inch slice.
To learn more, read "Tender Is the Chicken."
Cheese-Crusted Chicken Tenders
Recipe adapted from 'Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine,' by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf)
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
For the Chicken Tenders:
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, patted dry with paper towel (3 medium chicken breasts)
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (½ cup)
1 celery stalk, finely diced (¼ cup)
¼ cup celery leaves
¼ cup basil leaves
1¼ cups panko
¾ cup (1¼ ounces) freshly grated Grana Padano cheese, divided
1 lemon, sliced into thin wedges, for serving
For the Green Salad:
8 loose cups (5 ounces) mesclun mix
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved and lightly salted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Thinly slice each chicken breast on the bias into three to four ¾-inch-thick pieces. Pound each piece to an even thickness of ¼ inch and transfer to a small baking dish. Season the chicken evenly with ¾ teaspoon salt and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
3. In a food processor, combine the carrot, celery, celery leaves and basil, and process until the mixture becomes a fine vegetable pulp, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.
4. Transfer the vegetable pulp to a large bowl, along with the panko, ½ cup of the Grana Padano and the remaining salt, tossing with your hands to mix.
5. Working one at a time, place the oiled chicken piece into the panko mix, coating both sides well, and place onto the prepared sheet pan. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and top with the remaining cheese.
6. Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
7. When the chicken is almost done, make the salad: In a medium serving bowl, toss the mesclun greens with the cherry tomatoes and, just before serving, toss the salad with the lemon juice and olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken tenders to a serving platter along with the lemon wedges and serve.
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