Of all the ideas you had in your head as a kid about what being a grownup would be like, one of the only ones that ends up true is being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Theoretically you will want a balanced diet, but it also means you can do things like also have hot dogs and (homemade) French fries for dinner one night (thanks Leela!) and chicken fingers the next night.
However, I’d venture a guess that these are quite a bit healthier than diner and fast food versions. I wouldn’t say they taste BETTER, but they most definitely taste really, really good. The secret is the buttermilk, which tenderizes the chicken overnight and really gets the spices in there. And obviously, you can make this with regular breadcrumbs if you’re not gluten free. It’s a great, easy make-ahead meal, and goes great with my grownup favorite that kid me hated: broccoli.
Spicy Gluten Free Chicken Fingers
one package of thin-sliced chicken breasts (or already-cut into-tenders chicken, if your store has it and you want to save another step)
2 cups buttermilk, shaken
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (depends how spicy you want it, I recommend the 1 tsp, but you can go more or less)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika (I used sweet)
1 1/4 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (or regular if you’re not GF)
seasonings of your choice if your breadcrumbs are unseasoned (I use salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, and dried rosemary until the crumbs look well-seasoned)
If you bought chicken breasts, cut breasts into tender-size pieces. In an 8×8 or so baking dish, whisk buttermilk with salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, and paprika. Add chicken strips and mix with your hands until all chicken is coated and mostly submerged. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook, 2 to 24 hours, stirring around again halfway through marinating time. I strongly recommend doing this the night before and giving it a full 24 hours.
When ready to cook, take chicken out of fridge and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. In a large plate, pour out breadcrumbs and combine with seasonings, if using. Working one strip at a time, remove chicken from buttermilk, allow excess to drip off, then coat thoroughly in breadcrumbs. Repeat for all chicken.
Heat enough olive oil to very comfortably cover the bottom of a large, nonstick skillet over high heat. When oil is hot (a drop of water added to it should sizzle), lower to medium-high and add as much chicken as you can fit without overcrowding the pan. Cook until golden, then flip and cook until other side is golden, about 5 minutes total, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Drain on a paper towel- or lettuce-lined plate until all chicken is cooked, then serve. Makes a lot, and reheats well, and is good cold too!