Baked Pecan Crusted Chicken Fingers

I love chicken fingers. I usually buy mine from the same place every time I get a craving because they make the best chicken fingers. However, since I came across this recipe for Baked Pecan Crusted Chicken Fingers, I haven’t gone back to my old haunt. This is just so delicious. And the fact that they’re baked – not fried – makes them even better (or at least I don’t feel as guilty when I’m indulging). These are a must-try for any other chicken finger lovers out there.

I’m actually going to call these chicken strips. Chicken fingers just sounds a little funny to me. I’ve never seen a chicken with fingers, have you? Anyway, chicken strips are basically just chicken meat prepared from the pectoralis minor muscles of chickens. These strips of white meat are located on either side of the breastbone, under the breast meat (although breast meat is often used as well). Chicken strips are usually prepared by coating chicken meat in a breading mixture and then deep frying them, in a manner similar to the preparation of Schnitzel.

For this baked pecan crusted chicken finger recipe, the breading is the pecans, which are a nut native to Mexico and the southcentral and southeastern regions of the United States. “Pecan” comes from an Algonquian word meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack. Although pecans were well known among the colonial Americans, as a delicacy, the commercial growing of pecans didn’t begin in the United States until the 1880s and are therefore one of the most recently domesticated major crops. Today the U.S. produces between 80-95% of the world’s pecans from more than 10 million trees. The nut harvest is typically around mid-October, so this is the perfect time of year for pecan crusted… anything, but especially this delicious chicken recipe.

For this recipe you will use pecans two ways. To coat the chicken strips, typically you coat with flour, then egg wash, then breading. For this recipe you will mix finely chopped pecans with your flour. For the third step, instead of breading you will use more coarsely chopped pecans (no breading). For these steps it’s best to use three separate bowls of ingredients and alternate your hands so they don’t become pecan crusted (use one hand to dip in flour, the other hand to dip in egg and the first hand to dip in the crushed pecans). This will save time not having to wash your hands between each strip, but things will still get a little messy.

The best part about these chicken fingers is that they’re baked, so as not to add an excess oil (which would take away from the toasted pecan flavor). They’re a healthier alternative to the typically deep fried strips. These strips only need to baked for 20 minutes (10 minutes on each side) and then they’re ready to serve and enjoy. You can also make them ahead of time – they’ll freeze well for up to 2 months. So go ahead, make a big batch and enjoy them again and again!

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