I am so excited to share with you my creation for this month's Improv Challenge. The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients. The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.
This month the assigned ingredients were peanut butter and jelly. Interesting! As a mom of two small children, I make my fair share of pb and j sandwiches, and I do cook and bake with peanut butter a lot, but I have never made anything with peanut butter and jelly in it. I did some looking around online and found some interesting sweet treats using pb and j, but I was really wanting to find something savory. I didn't find anything, and after several days of trying to think of something on my own, I was resigned to the fact that I would have to do something sweet. Then, all of a sudden, an idea popped into my head. I honestly have no idea where this idea came from, but I thought it was pure genius. I again looked around online to see if anyone else had done it and found only one recipe that was vaguely related to what I had in mind. It used different ingredients and a different method, though, so I went my own way and made up this recipe myself.
I coated chicken tenders in a mixture of peanut butter and coconut milk, then breaded them with crispy Panko breadcrumbs. I baked them in the oven until juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Then I whipped up a spicy sweet dipping sauce made with apricot jam.
Crispy Peanut Butter Chicken Fingers with Apricot Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
1½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp sesame seeds
⅛ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk (I used light)
⅛ tsp salt
½ tsp Bangkok Seasoning (Thai seasoning)
¼ -½ tsp cayenne
1 – 1½ lb. chicken breast tenders, about 8 tenders
½ cup sweet chili sauce
¼ cup apricot preserves or jam
Preheat oven to 400°. Combine the Panko, sesame seeds, salt, and oil in a medium skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and let cool.
In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, coconut milk, salt, Bangkok, and cayenne. Pour mixture into another shallow bowl.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Dip each tender in the peanut butter mixture, then coat with the Panko mixture. Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.
Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the sweet chili sauce and the apricot preserves. Serve chicken fingers with dipping sauce on the side.
Makes 4 servings, 2 tenders each.
It was a success! Yay! It seems like it's been a while since I came up with an original recipe, so I was quite proud of myself with this one. The peanut butter flavor on the chicken is subtle, but definitely there. If you eat the chicken by itself, without the dipping sauce, you notice it a lot more. I went with Thai seasoning because using peanut butter with chicken is quite common in Thai-style food. That's why I used coconut milk to thin it out.
For the breadcrumbs, I used the same method as my regular Baked Chicken Fingers. Pre-toasting the Panko was a trick I learned from America's Test Kitchen. It is pure genius. When using small or thin cuts of chicken, the chicken would be completely overcooked and dry by the time the breadcrumbs were golden brown, so browning them ahead of time makes for a perfectly browned and crispy coating while keeping the chicken tender and juicy. To keep with the "Thai" theme, I added sesame seeds to the coating. You'll notice in the picture above that they are white; it's because I didn't think to add them until after I had toasted the Panko. But next time I'll toast them right along with it.
The dipping sauce is so good! It's sweet, but has a nice little kick from the chili sauce. My four-year-old couldn't get enough!
Come back next month to see what I make with strawberries and cream! Will I go savory again?