Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grown up Chicken Dinner--Chicken Tenders Stuffed with Goat Cheese

It has begun! My kitchen is officially ready to entertain. I plan lunches, brunches, breakfasts and dinners. Shauna interjects. Her friends want to see the new and improved home. I accommodate her. We plan the menu. Recipes fly back and forth. One friend is a vegetarian, one does not eat spicy food and all love dessert. A refreshing salad of fennel, oranges and beets sit atop spring mix. Greens are a must, so she roasts pencil thin asparagus spears and smothers them with lemon zest. She volunteers to make arancini. I allow her the privilege of making the most complicated item. We settle on chicken tenders, a childhood throwback, with a grown-up twist. I flatten tenders, stuff them with a herb goat cheese and finish them with marinara sauce.

The kids loved chicken tenders when they were young. Mine were never as good as the fast food mavens. Chicken nuggets and ketchup were treats after exams, painful doctors' visits and for times when Mum was "too tired to cook." As adults, they relish the grown-up version much much more. The stuffing adds a piquancy to bland  meat. I shy away from breast meat, preferring to use tenders instead. Shauna and I dance our way through prep work.

She sets the table. French knives, wine glasses and plates make up a formal table. Emo music plays. Appetizers sit in the living room. The oven hisses, warming trays laden with chicken, arancini and asparagus. Her friends arrive, oohing and aahing over new furnishings and appliances. Hunger pangs prevail. Wine is uncorked. Dinner is served.

Chicken Tenders Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Makes 12

12 Chicken Tenders
1 teaspoon  Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
3/4 cup Goat Cheese
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely cut Parsley leaves 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
A few grinds Black pepper
1 Egg
1 cup Breadcrumbs.. or more if you need
Canola oil to shallow fry

Wash and trim chicken tenders. Pat them dry.

Using a sharp knife, butterfly the chicken.  

Season with Kosher salt and pepper.

Mix goat cheese, thyme, parsley, Kosher salt and pepper.

Spoon up a marble-sized ball of goat cheese. Roll it into an ovoid shape.

Stuff a ball into the pocket of the chicken tender, pulling the flap to close the seam. Place the chicken seam side down.

Refrigerate the tenders for 15 minutes so the pieces firm up. It makes breading easier.

Break an egg in a shallow bowl and whisk well.

Keep breadcrumbs in a bowl too.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush both sides of the chicken tender with egg wash.

Coat with breadcrumbs, patting well for crumbs to adhere.

Repeat with all tenders using more breadcrumbs if necessary.

Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan and fry tenders on high heat.

Let chicken brown 2 to 5 minutes on each side.

The goat cheese might ooze out a little at this time. Thats ok.

Place them in an oven-proof dish, loosely cover with foil and finish cooking oven for 20 minutes.

At this point you could serve them with marinara sauce. Or if dinner is at a later time, chicken could be reheated in a low oven at 200 degrees F for 10 minutes.


Whole chicken breasts could be used in the same manner. You have to adjust the stuffing for size. You could also use pre-cut thinly sliced chicken breasts.

The tenders could be breaded ahead of time, covered and kept in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.

You could also finish frying the tenders in the pan stovetop. I do this when we dont have large portions to fry. It takes longer, at least 6 to 8 minutes per side on a medium flame.

Animated chatter at the table overshadows the clink of cutlery and glass. I hear compliments and contentment as dinner progresses. It pleases me that the food brings so much joy to her friends. Much to my amazement, empty serving platters return to the kitchen. I expect leftovers like many such previous dinners. But no leftovers is a testament to their more sophisticated palates and to more space in the fridge!