BY SARA MOULTON
The Associated Press
---- — First, a confession. I don't watch the Super Bowl. As a matter of fact, I rarely even know who is playing. Still, I'm well aware that it is far and away America's largest secular holiday and that the celebration requires not only watching the game on television, but also eating a hefty snack or meal while doing so.
Naturally, such a manly event calls for manly cuisine, dishes designed to be eaten by hand and that will stick to the ribs. The key food groups are meat and melted cheese, preferably deep-fried.
Buffalo-style chicken wings and chicken nuggets are just the sort of deep-fried deliciousness we're talking about. My recipe marries the two and does so in a way that simultaneously satisfies the soul and keeps the blood whistling through the old arteries.
My biggest challenge in the creation of this recipe was to construct a crisp crust without deep-frying the chicken in a vat of fat.
If it is not quite as crispy as the sauteed version, it is nonetheless ridiculously flavorful. I recommend dipping the finished baked nuggets, first in the hot sauce, then in the blue cheese. I think you will agree that this combo is a touchdown.
Buffalo Chicken Tenders
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 t. salt
¼ c. plus 2 T. hot sauce (my favorite for this recipe is Tabasco Chipotle), divided
2 c. plus 6 T. buttermilk, divided
1 lb. chicken tenders (or chicken breasts cut into 3-by-1-inch strips, 1/2-inch thick)
¾ c. whole-wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ c. panko breadcrumbs
¼ c. low-fat mayonnaise
¼ c. crumbled blue cheese
½ t. lemon juice
In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, salt, 2 T. hot sauce and 2 c. buttermilk. Whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the chicken tenders and stir to coat well with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 10 hours.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with olive oil cooking spray.
In a shallow bowl combine the whole-wheat and panko breadcrumbs. In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining 6 tablespoons of buttermilk, the mayonnaise, blue cheese and lemon juice. Transfer to a ramekin for dipping. Pour the remaining ¼ c. hot sauce into a second ramekin for dipping.
Use a colander to drain the chicken, but do not pat it dry. Dip each chicken piece in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure it is coated well on both sides. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, then spritz the tops with olive oil cooking spray.
Bake on the oven's middle shelf for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a platter. Serve with both dipping sauces. Makes four servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 80 calories from fat (27 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 80 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 33 g protein; 1,120 mg sodium.