Lauren McDuffie's Crunchy Pecan Chicken Tenders with Vanilla Maple Mustard
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup Cane River Mammoth or Elliott Pecans
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
- Neutral flavored cooking oil, such as canola or vegetable
- 2/3 cup Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard (optional)
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
- Pinch cayenne pepper
Warm, toasted pecans make the perfect breading for freshly fried chicken tenders -- and there's no need to go to a restaurant to get them. This recipe is a foolproof crowd-pleaser, and I recommend serving this as an appetizer or piled up on top of a crunchy green salad. The sauce easily doubles as a dressing, and its sweetness perfectly highlights the salty, toasted pecan flavor.
Making the Vanilla Mustard Sauce
Stir together the mustard, maple syrup, vanilla, mayo and a pinch of cayenne in a small bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper to balance the sweetness, and adjust the ingredients to suit your preferences (for example, you can add more maple if you like it sweeter).
- Pour the flour onto a large plate, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Add the pecans, panko, parmesan and a pinch of salt to a food processor. Then pulse just until finely ground/blended. Pour onto a second large plate.
- Add oil to a depth of 1 inch in a large, deep-sided skillet set over med-high heat.
- Coat each piece of chicken in some flour, shaking off any excess, and then coat in some beaten egg. Finally, dredge fully in the panko-pecan mixture, pressing it into each tender. I like to coat each tender before moving on to the frying stage as it makes for more efficient work. Just lay them gently on a sheet pan while you finish the rest.
- Working in batches, when the oil is shimmering hot, cook the tenders until golden brown and crispy on each side. This takes about 4 to 5 minutes per side. You can add a little more oil in between batches, as needed. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a rack, season with salt, and enjoy with the maple-mustard sauce.