Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crispy Chicken and Roasted Asparagus with a Balsamic Reduction

I’m not positive about many things in life, but there are 3 things I’m absolutely sure of.
  1. Without Parmesan Cheese, my life would be very different; and not in a good way.
  2. In cooking, a “reduction” is usually a very, VERY good thing.
  3. If something is fried, it is generally better than it’s un-fried counterpart.
I usually always have breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, oil, and eggs. This means that on any given night I am usually in a good position to fry up something delicious.

In our freezer chilling away were these cute, little chicken breast tenderloins. Lovely, bite-sized cuts of chicken breasts begging to be thrown into breadcrumbs and hot oil. To their wish I obliged. I also went a little overboard and decided it was time to try my hand at a balsamic reduction. My roasted asparagus was very happy with this as well.

Tonight’s dinner was unplanned but it came together just beautifully. I knew I had to share it with you.

Crispy Chicken Tenders and Baked Asparagus with a Balsamic Reduction. Doesn’t it sound like it’s straight off some fancy restaurant menu?! Well, the taste lived up to those expectations. And I'm pretty confident any home cook can whip this meal together. Try it for your next date night or dinner party!

Here’s what you need:

For the Chicken
1 pound of chicken breast tenderloins
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (Panko breadcrumbs are an airy Japanese breadcrumb. They crisp up even better than the traditional Iitalian-seasoned breadcrumbs and are actually lighter)
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Garlic powder, fresh cracked black pepper, and salt
Vegetable oil

For the Balsamic Reduction
1 cup balsamic vinegar (store brand is fine here!)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

Side Dishes
1 cup quinoa, cooked according to the package
1 pound asparagus, trimmed

Here's what you do:

Get your quinoa cooking in a pot with chicken broth and a little bit of salt.
Pat your chicken tenderloins dry with a clean paper towel.
On a piece of wax paper, mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and seasoning.
Toss your chicken into the beaten egg and then evenly coat each piece in the breadcrumb mixture. Press down lightly to ensure a good amount of the coating sticks to the chicken.

Fill a heavy-bottomed frying pan with enough vegetable oil that it will cover about 1/2 of each chicken tender. Warm it up over medium heat.
When the oil starts to move a little on the surface and is slightly smoking, add 2 to 3 chicken tenders. You know the oil is hot enough if there are tiny bubbles around the edges of the chicken.

Cook each tender for 5 minutes on each side until beautifully golden brown.

Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to strain the excess oil. This is so critical because if you do not strain the oil out, you will be left with a soggy chicken.

While the chicken cooks and strains, arrange your asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toss in extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and salt. Bake in a 375 degree oven until tender.

Just before the quinoa has absorbed all the broth, add the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Cover and remove from heat, allowing the quinoa to become aromatic with lemony goodness. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Now -- to the balsamic reduction!
In a small saucepan, add the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Stir well to combine. Heat over medium heat until just boiling. Continue to stir and reduce the heat to low. Let the balsamic simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (or longer), stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. The reduction will become thick and syrupy. It will also release some of that strong vinegar smell and become a bit sweeter.

Prepare your plate in the following layers:

Bed of roasted asparagus.
Blanket with a generous helping of lemon scented quinoa.
Lay two crispy chicken tenders on top.
Drizzle everything with the balsamic reduction.
Cut, dip, eat, enjoy.

Is your mouth watering yet?

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