Friday, January 06, 2006

Tortilla Chicken Strips

Here is a fantastic recipe for chicken fingers. I learned how to make this chicken when I was only a meager apprentice, slaving away for a pair of cruel, bald-headed, disturbingly close brothers. They later went on to torture more apprentices, opening two more restaurants, and starring in their own "dramatized" television series on the food network... any guesses? Anyway, I was a drugde in the catering department, trying to soak up all the knowledge possible in that, the first fine dining kitchen I worked in. My superior was Nilay, a kind but odd woman from Turkey. She had no cooking experience, only a degree in Hotel Management. This was the woman who was supposed to teach me about food? I had been behind a stove for 3 years already. But despite the fact that Nilay knew very little about fine cooking (she thoght carrot tops and parsley were the same thing), she taught me a lot about simple but gourmet sandwiches and salads. This was her way of using up leftover tortilla chips. We would fry up the chicken, and slice it for sandwiches. I resented waking up at 6 am to make sandwiches for Bay St. professionals, and at the time, I didn't think I was learning a thing. But the chef was right when he told me that learning how to make a great sandwich was very important- the techniques that I learned have served me well.

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp ground salt
1 egg
3 cups crushed tortilla chips
1/4 cup oil, for frying

1. Crush the trotilla strips either with a food processor, or use the Luddite method (ziploc bag and a rolling pin).
2. Slice each chicken breast into thick strips. Season with salt and set aside.
3. Prepare your breading station. In a medium shallow bowl, combine flour and seasonings. In a smaller bowl, crack the egg and mix with 1 tablespoon cold water. In the final, large bowl, place the crushed tortilla chips.
4. Bread the chicken strips using the following method: Dredge chicken in flour, shake of excess, dip in to egg wash, place in tortilla chips. Press the chicken down firmly to flatten and cover completely with crunchy chips. Repeat with all remaining chicken. *See Cook's Tip
5. Allow the chicken to stand for 5 minutes before frying.
6. Heat a wok or tall-sided pot on the stove over medium heat. Always be careful when heating oil! Fry the chicken on both sides until golden brown. If your chicken is thick, you may finish the cooking in a 400 degree oven.

Serve with a simple salad, or slice thinly and make a sandwich!

*Cook's Tip. To avoid breading your fingertips in the process, do what the professionals do: Use one hand for touching the dry ingredients, and the other for touching the wet stuff. This way your hands will stay cleaner!

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