There aren't many foods that bring back the nostalgia of childhood like the chicken tender. While I did eat the kind from fast food restaurants growing up, it was much more common for my mom to make a breaded chicken tenders in the oven at home. I've made her recipe a number of times and my only complaint was that it wasn't quite crispy enough.
The obvious solution which I have used in the past, is to pan fry them instead of bake them. This is not only more time consuming, it is less healthy.
The restaurant at my work makes AMAZING panko crusted chicken fingers. They are fried, but they are also super delicious. I had a giant bag of panko from a recent trip to the Asian food store, so I thought I would try replacing the bread crumbs in my moms recipe with panko.
I have to say, that they were delicious! Even though they didn't brown quite as much as I would have liked, they were still a bit more crispy than regular bread crumbs can produce. The Parmesan cheese mixed in with the panko gives a bit of extra flavor to the crust. Letting the chicken soak in the egg and buttermilk mixture worked well, and the chicken ended up still being moist on the inside. The apricot mustard dipping sauce was fantastic as well--I think it might be Nathan's new favorite condiment.
Parmesan Panko Chicken Bites
1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into about 1" pieces
1/3 cup of buttermilk
1 1/2 cups of panko crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1-2 Tbsp dijon mustard
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees
Whisk together the buttermilk and the egg. Put the chicken into the mixture and set aside while you prep the other ingredients.
Mix together the panko, garlic powder and cheese. I found the cheese tried to get a bit clumpy, so use your fingers to incorporate it if necessary.
Drain the chicken a few pieces at a time and place in the panko mixture. Thoroughly coat them with crumbs and place them in a single layer on a greased baking sheet.
Bake for about 16 minutes flipping about halfway through (flip one and see if it has browned on the bottom, if it hasn't let them cook a few more minutes before flipping).
While they are cooking, mix together the apricot and the mustard. I just added a little bit of mustard at a time until it tasted good to me--it really depends on how much you like mustard.