A Night in New York & A Recipe From North Carolina

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January 22, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

Last night we went to Perla in the West Village for a decadent dinner. We started with a perfectly grilled octopus with fresh bright tomato sauce and black spaghetti with skate and roasted cauliflower, in a rich but tangy lemon butter sauce. Then we shared chicken alla diavolo, an arctic char with butternut squash and sunchokes, and Mediterranean-flavored lamb breast with a sour smooth yogurt sauce. Lamb breast was the amazing new discovery of the night – it’s actually in the wheelhouse of pork belly: succulent, fall-apart fatty, and in Perla’s case, with a perfect crispy char. When I get back to London, I will definitely be hitting up my local butcher for a breast of lamb and start experimenting with this cut of meat.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, today’s recipe is a spin on the healthy baked chicken finger. When I was living in North Carolina, my friend, Jamie, and I did some catering for our old high school, which doesn’t have a cafeteria. It was an interesting culinary challenge to develop recipes for very picky eaters. I mean, it wasn’t rocket science. We are talking chicken caesar wraps, mac and cheese, and quesadillas, which we are fairly confident the kids ate cold. At one point we were asked to dumb down our cornbread muffins to leave out the chili and cheese.

I’m going to toot my own horn here: this recipe is kind of genius. We found that we had tons of leftover tortilla chip crumbs from our big seller – chips & salsa. So using ingredients that we otherwise would have trashed, I invented nacho chicken fingers. We battered them in the chip crumbs and taco seasoning, baked them, and served them with queso dip. Of course when I remade these in London I couldn’t find queso dip, so I made them even more nacho-esque by melting cheese over the cooked fingers. Full disclosure, if you can get your hands on some yummy, bright yellow, processed cheese dip, it works.


Start by setting up your breading station. My breading dishes are from Williams-Sonoma, but you can certainly use three large shallow bowls.


Dredge the chicken fingers in flour, shake off the excess, then dip into the egg. Roll through the chip crumbs and taco seasoning, making sure they get evenly coated.


Space out the chicken evenly on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.


At this point, either serve the chicken fingers with a queso dip or sprinkle them with shredded cheese and place back under the broiler for about 2 minutes. Of course, you can also go cheese-crazy and do both!


Nacho Chicken Fingers

Serves 4, about 3 fingers each serving

¼ cup flour

2 eggs

2 Tbs. water

½ cup tortilla chip crumbs

2 Tbs. taco seasoning

1 lb. chicken tenderloins

1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Sour cream, salsa, and/or queso dip for serving

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Fill three shallow bowls: one with flour, one with the eggs whisked with water, and the final one with tortilla crumbs mixed with taco seasoning.

Dredge each chicken finger in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip into the egg and then the tortillas. Place on a greased baking sheet.

Bake the chicken for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven to the broiler setting. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the baked chicken fingers. Place baking sheet back under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, just until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Serve the chicken fingers with sour cream, salsa, and queso dip.



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