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Try A Little Chicken Tenderness

chicken tenders szechuan sauce pretzel coated otis redding
“But it’s all so easy. All you got to do is try, try a little tenderness”

Theme song by Otis Redding “Try A Little Tenderness” from The Dictionary Of Soul
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There is simply no denying Otis Redding CRUSHED this song. It’s both a brilliant love song and a cautionary tale about love neglected. Otis is an icon and all props go to him, but let’s be honest here. For anyone of the Boomer/GenX/and MAYBE Millenial Generation, the REAL touchstone for this inspiration is this:

Either you believe this is the single greatest Jon Cryer performance coupled with the greatest lip sync ever filmed or you are wrong. It’s also a loving tribute to the greatness of Otis Redding. “Try A Little Tenderness” is peak Redding to me. Simultaneously heartfelt and heartbreaking, it’s a blueprint for the perfect soul song. It’s also my favorite Redding recording.

Having successfully made oven-baked chicken parm, I decided to continue my “Oven-Fried Stuff” quest with a favorite bar snack – chicken tenders. As a bonus, it gave me a reason to make a Rick & Morty Szechuan Knockoff Sauce.

Breadcrumbs or panko are extremely dull choices for chicken breading. Sure, they are cheap and easy, but nowhere near as interesting as pretzels. I started making pretzel coated fried chicken for a chicken & waffles brunch special. Since then, I have used pretzels as breading for a variety of chicken sandwiches. They actually hold up better than panko or breadcrumbs in commercial fryers because they absorb less grease and get crunchier.

What I wasn’t sure of going into this recipe is whether they would work for oven frying. Thankfully, the answer is yes. You do need to have a food processor or blender to get the pretzels fairly finely pulsed. Large pieces of pretzel in the breading will start to burn in the oven. Using a flavored pretzel, I used Snyder’s Cheddar Cheese, adds a mild flavor bump though honestly not enough to really matter. Using plain pretzels will be perfectly great.

When it comes to dipping sauces, I prefer sweet and spicy. This Szechuan sauce hits a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and salty. A good spicy BBQ sauce or Honey Dijon sauce would make a great choice. Hell, hot sauce & mayo actually worked. Just be better than using plain ketchup for dipping. 

Leftovers, should there be any, keep well in the fridge overnight. You do lose a bit of the crunchiness, but they still make for a great cold chicken sandwich or taco. I would not recommend attempting a reheat as they will definitely dry out.

Pretzel coated baked chicken tenders with Szechuan sauce
Makes a lot of tenders

2 pounds chicken breast cut into 1/2” thick strips
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large eggs
8 ounces pretzels, crushed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well. In another shallow bowl, crack and thoroughly whisk the eggs. Finally, place the crushed pretzels on a plate. This is your breading set-up. To bread the tenders, dip into the flour – then into the egg – then coat with the pretzel. Place on the baking sheet and repeat. You may need two sheets in order to do all of the tenders or you can work in two batches.

Place breaded tenders in the oven and set a timer for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, flip the tenders and place back in the oven for another 8 minutes. If they don’t look golden and done after 16 minutes, let them bake a couple of minutes more keeping an eye on them so they do not burn.

Let cool slightly on the sheet pan for 2 minutes then transfer to a plate. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I recommend a Szechuan sauce or spicy BBQ sauce though honey mustard is also a solid choice.

Makes about a 1/2 cup

6 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Soy sauce
3 tablespoons Plum sauce
3 tablespoons Sriracha
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1” piece of ginger, peeled & minced fine

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until slightly golden. Add Balsamic vinegar, Soy sauce, and Plum sauce – whisking to combine thoroughly. Bring to a rapid simmer and let cook for 5 minutes until slightly reduced. Then add Sriracha, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and ginger. Whisk to combine and simmer until sauce is reduced and thick.


Posted in bushwick, comfort food, cooking, food, foodmusic, grillclub, music, musicfood, recipe


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