I'll admit it - I can pretty much eat the same thing over and over. I'm perfectly content with a peanut butter sandwich (on homemade bread, natch) and a banana for lunch, every day. But with summer here and a kid home from school, I have to put a little more thought into what I have lying around for lunches.
To make sure she's well-fed while I'm at work, I pre-make large batches of buttermilk chicken fingers and flash freeze them. (Flash freezing deserves its own post, but essentially, you freeze things in single layers until they're hard, then pop them in ziploc bags - where they magically don't stick together.) The kiddo can then pull a couple of chicken fingers out of the bag, pop them in the microwave for a minute or so, and voila. Hot lunch.
This is more of a method than a recipe, so feel free to add herbs and spices to taste.
Frozen Buttermilk Chicken Fingers
Season however many chicken tenders you want to make with salt and pepper. Be generous with the seasoning. Then, place them in a shallow baking pan and cover them with buttermilk.
Leave the chicken tenders in the buttermilk bath for at least an hour or two. I've left them overnight with no ill effects.
When you're ready to cook the chicken, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
I use panko bread crumbs as breading. They make a light and crispy coating, and tend to adhere well. Just make sure that you season the bread crumbs well, because they don't have a lot of flavor on their own. You want to season every layer of flavor. Place them in a flat dish, like a plate or a pie plate.
Now, pull the chicken tenders one at a time from their buttermilk soak, and dredge them in the panko. Use your fingers to pat the bread crumbs on so that they really adhere and form a nice crust. You may need to add more panko to your dish if you have a lot of chicken tenders to make. Pile the chicken tenders on a clean plate after they're breaded.
It's time to fry these puppies. Heat some canola or other vegetable oil in a large skillet until it's just starting to smoke. While that's heating up. get out your tongs and set aside a large baking sheet to place the browned chicken tenders on.
Once the skillet's hot, lay the first batch of tenders in it. Don't overcrowd the skillet! You'll need to do several batches, so give them plenty of room to breathe. Let them sit for a few minutes without moving until they're nicely browned; turn with your tongs and brown the other side - 1 to 3 minutes more. At this point, you're just trying to get a nice crust. You're not trying to cook them through.
Once they're browned, move them to the baking sheet, using your tongs. Add a little more oil (no more than a tablespoon at a time) if needed, and brown your next batch. Once all of the batches are browned and added to the sheet, move it to the oven. Bake the chicken fingers at 350 for 5-8 minutes, until the thickest are cooked through. (You may want to remove some thinner or smaller pieces out of the oven sooner, if you are making a large batch - put those closer to the front.)
Remove the pan from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. I usually transfer them to a clean baking sheet at this time (sprayed with cooking spray), because they're less likely to stick. Put the sheet in the oven, uncovered, for about an hour. Check in an hour or so, if the individual chicken fingers are frozen solid, you can remove them from the baking sheet and transfer them to ziploc bags. They'll stay individually frozen in the bags.
When you're ready to eat, take however many chicken fingers you want, and transfer them to a clean plate. Microwave on high for one minute; if they're not heated through, heat 10 seconds at a time until hot.