Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Mommy, You Make The Best Chicken Fingers"

Okay, that's actually what Lucy said about my chicken fingers tonight. And I tell you this not to brag because I suffer much humiliation at my kitchen table. Sure, I can cook, but little good it does me, most of it ends up on the floor, mashed into the rug or smushed into someone's hair.

This week, Edie hid a lamb chop under the couch. I knew I was down a bone, but I'll be damned, it took me days to find it. It was way back there wedged behind a Barbie doll and a deflated balloon.

I am humbled by Lucy's complete intolerance for anything that is a sauce, comes from a sauce, looks like a sauce or is sauce-like in its appearance. She has also recently decided that pizza should never have tomatoes, since this is an evil cousin of the "the sauce". Tomatoes apparently can turn into "the sauce" in the oven. And you can't pick "the sauce" off the pizza very easily, so it is despised. Edie loved sauce and tomatoes until she heard Lucy chanting "No sauce" over and over and she joined in and chanted and that was so much fun, she too refuses to eat tomatoes or "the sauce".

Now, they ask for "cheese on bread" which is not actually cheese on bread. It's cheese on dough. Not cheese on a pita or something. It has to be dough. Because it's pizza. Kind of.

And if you are keeping up with Lucy's lifelong, love-hate relationship with the egg, well, we stopped eating three fried egg whites a day, as I reported a few weeks ago. Like, over night we were egg obsessed. Another night, as if the egg were "the sauce", the love affair was over. Go figure.

And then, there's what's been happening lately - you know, when they leave my house and other people feed them things and they experience things they've never had before. Like the night we were at a friend's house and she served the kids plain twisty pasta heated up in the microwave with a little butter and salt. Lucy looked up and said, "Mommy, can you serve us our pasta like this every day?"

My colon sort of spazzed up a little in that moment.

There was also the night before last - we were invited to a neighbors house for dinner and they made meatballs and macaroni and cheese for us, you know, out of pity because my husband has been gone for like, ever, and everyone knows I am a pathetic basket case without David's calm, serene, Bhudda-like presence.

And Edie is kind of a meatball-aholic and ate, like 20 meatballs and the kids stunned the crowd with their ability to wield knives at the dinner table and nearly impale the people around them, but when asked if she wanted some mac and cheese (which was completely awesome mac and cheese) Lucy refused and informed our host - in the most authoritative voice I think I've ever heard from her - that she only liked the best mac and cheese in the world, which is the kind of mac and cheese they serve at her school friend's house.

Now, I know about their mac and cheese, these people. It's the box. It's organic sure. They are organic people living in their organic brownstone in their organic section of town. But organic crap is still crap. I don't mind her eating it at her friend's house or once in awhile someplace other than our home. But what I hate about it, is that it is so mind-numblingly, palate-killing that simply having it only occasionally at a play date has inspired her to turn up her nose at anything resembling homemade mac and cheese. She won't even try it.

The box is a drug. It is crack for children.

And then, Lucy infected Edie. Just as she was about to stab a fork full of pasta, Edie heard her sister's box-mac-and-cheese-dining-room-manifesto and said, "No pasta," and dropped her fork. And asked me to promptly remove it from her plate, as if it's very presence could somehow infiltrate her system through osmosis. She went back to her meatballs.

I went back to blushing a lot and wondering why I write a food blog in the first place.

Which brings me to why I am thrilled that Lucy gave me this incredibly generous compliment - cause I don't get them a lot. Or ever. I cannot compete with pasta re-heated in a microwave with a pat of butter and a shot or Morton's. I am being bludgeoned by box macaroni and cheese. And cans of Pringle's at kid eye-length at the store. And Dora hawking candy. And Kool Aid masking as juice. And the sheer amount of processed food sitting on any shelves in any market and how unbelievably ubiquitous those foods are in the hands of every kid on the playground.

See? I'm being bludgeoned with my very own boxes of uneaten organic kale. So, the compliment rejuvenated me. A lot.

And what you will love about making these chicken fingers is how ridiculously easy it is. So simple. The trick is to use Panko bread crumbs, instead of your standard Italian ones. I'm sure you know about Panko and where to get them, but for those who don't...they are Japanese bread crumbs made from crustless bread, which gives them an airier, lighter feel that makes them get super-crispy when they are cooked.

You can buy Panko at Asian specialty store, large supermarkets and in many fish markets (that's where I buy mine). You can get all fancy with these strips, using mustards and spices to ramp up the flavor. But this easy way did the trick for us.

And got me one of the best critiques from one of my harshest critics ever.

xxoo YM

PS: You can make a little dipping sauce for these. Maybe a chive mayo. Or a tomato sauce. Or a honey dijon sauce. I would've but, you know, we have issues with "The sauce".

"If Lucy Loves it, You'll Love It" Panko Chicken Fingers

•3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
•3 eggs
• Panko bread crumbs
• Olive oil (as needed)
• Salt, pepper (you can add dried herbs/spices to your liking, like paprika
and thyme)
• A small handful of chopped Parsley
• One lemon cut into wedges

Wash chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. I skillet fry these in a cast iron frying pan in olive oil (cause I embrace the fat), but you can bake them in oven. If so, preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix the eggs up in a bowl. Put about 2 cups of Panko in a bowl. Salt and pepper the chicken. Dredge the chicken in the Panko first. Then, dredge it through the egg. Then, back in the Panko. Put the chicken strip on a clean plate (if frying) and a baking sheet if it's going in the oven.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Or saute on each side for roughly 5-7 minutes on each side, depending on the size of the chicken strip. Plate and sprinkle with chopped up Parsley and a spritz of lemon. Use lemon wedges as a garnish on the side of the plate. Serve with a little herbed mayo or honey dijon sauce (if you are not sauce-challenged.)



Maris said...

Those do look like the best chicken fingers!

Lara said...

This blog post is why I love you.

Izzy's Mama said...

Don't let the Mac and Cheese get you down. Continue your fight against the box. Good food will prevail.

Izzy goes through short phases where he doesn't like or want certain things but I just explain that these are the things we eat.

After a few meals of wrinkling his nose up, when he sees there are no substitutes, he goes back to eating as we do. And then eventually asking for the very things he wrinkled his nose up at!

ntsc said...

To hear is to have obeyed.

cooknkate said...

I agree with Izzy's Mama.....good food will prevail. Just keep making it and putting it in front of them...and then searching for the missing items. (sorry, I thought that story of the lamb chop was do they do this without you noticing anyway?)

If you think it's rough now, I pray for your strength when they are teenagers. The pervasive food mentality gets far worse, but with a good base to stand on, I fully believe that will return eventually.