Monday 1 November 2010

Rosemary and Parmesan Chicken Strips with a Lemon Dipping Sauce

I'm not the sort of person who has the patience to stand around frying things, but I do like crumbed chicken, and so I've come up with this recipe for oven-baked crispy strips. Fresh rosemary needles and grated Parmesan add a lovely savoury flavour to the crumb crust, and the chicken strips are marinated for an hour or two in yoghurt to ensure perfect tenderness.

These are great for serving as a snack with drinks because you can make them in advance, keep them in the fridge, and then sling them into a very hot oven to bake.  Or do what my mum does: she marinates a batch of chicken strips in a lidded plastic box in the fridge, and then takes out a few to crumb and bake when she needs them (you can safely store these, in their marinade, in the fridge for up to four days).

A challenge is getting the crust to turn golden during a short baking time, which is why I've specified bread rolls for the crumbs (they have a higher proportion of crust to inner than do slices of bread). If you want really golden crumbs, use only the crusts of your bread rolls.

Take care not to overcook the strips; they dry out quickly. The exact cooking time will depend on the nature of your oven: I suggest you blast them for 10 minutes, then cut one open to see if it's done. If there's only a slight pinkness in the middle, give the strips another two to five minutes.

If you're watching calories, use natural yoghurt instead of crème fraîche in the dipping sauce.

Rosemary and Parmesan Chicken Strips with a Lemon Dipping Sauce

12 skinless, deboned free-range chicken breasts

For the marinade:
¾ cup (180 ml) plain natural yoghurt
the juice of a lemon
a pinch of white pepper

For the crust:
3 large day-old bread rolls, or enough to make 2½ cups (625 ml) crumbs
a 12-cm stalk of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
200 ml finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp (45 ml) good olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dip:
½ cup (125 ml) crème fraîche
3 Tbsp (45 ml) good mayonnaise (home made or Hellmann's)
the finely grated zest and juice of a small lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the chicken breasts into slender strips, each about the length of your index finger. Here's how: first remove the little 'fillet' piece on the underside of the breast. Then cut the breast in half horizontally so you have two 'leaves'. Cut each leaf into three or four strips.

Put the yoghurt, lemon juice and pepper into a plastic or glass bowl and add the chicken strips. Mix well, using your hands. Set aside to marinate two or so hours (but not longer than three).

Now make the crumb mixture (do this immediately, so the crumbs can dry out a little while the chicken marinates). Tear the bread into pieces and place in the goblet of a liquidiser or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the rosemary leaves. Whizz until you have a fairly fine crumb (but don't over-process the crumbs, or you'll end up with green dust). Tip the crumbs into a large shallow platter and add the grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Place the platter, uncovered, in the fridge, which will help dry out the crumbs.

To make the dip, combine the creme fraiche, yoghurt and mayonnaise in a bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Set aside.

Remove the crumbs from the fridge and sprinkle with three tablespoons of olive oil. Using your fingertips, gently rub the olive oil into the crumbs, as you would if you were making a pastry. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip the chicken strips into a colander set over the sink and allow to drain for a few minutes. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Add a few chicken strips - six or so at a time - to the bread crumbs and turn them over a few times, patting down firmly so that the crumbs stick. Repeat with the remaining chicken strips.

If you're going to cook these immediately, preheat the oven to 210ºC. Place a large non-stick baking sheet in the oven to heat through for ten minutes. If you're making these in advance, arrange the crumbed strips on a baking sheet or platter, and place, uncovered, in the fridge for up to three hours.

To cook, place the strips on the preheated baking sheet. Bake, in the middle of the oven, for 12-15 minutes, or until the strips are golden brown and sizzling, and just cooked through. Serve piping hot, with the dip.

Serves 8 as a snack.
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Charne said...

This sonds absolutely scrumptious! I'm definately making this later this week!Thank you for the great recipes.

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you very much Meisie. I'm so glad you like the recipes.

Charne said...

They're awesome..SAfrican cooking is still the BEST!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, why do you do this to me? Rosemary AND Parmesan? Yum.

Unknown said...

Flavours delicious but had trouble getting crumbs to be crispy very difficult to replicate fried level of crispness even in hot oven. SO borrowed an idea from an old Ina Paarman recipe for "chip chicken" and rolled strips in crushed cheese and onion chips. Voila. I think Kellogs crushed cornflakes might achieve the same effect? Lovely site - thank you.

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks for the suggestion Margaret. It's important to let the crumbs dry out thoroughly, and to preheat the tray in the oven. I haven't had problems getting a really crispy crumb. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Rachel said...

This looks great! I think it could work really well with a white fish as well for a new take on fish fingers. Thank you for the inspiration :)