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Baked Coconut Chicken Fingers

This recipe is all about technique, not torture, and lots and lots of unsweetened coconut!

Baked Coconut Chicken Fingers
Crunchy and crisp, tender and juicy, and full of flavor.

To all the coconut shrimp lovers out there, this chicken finger recipe is for you. Half panko/half shredded coconut, the crunchy coating is as crunchy as could be thanks to the clever method of toasting the coconut and panko in a pan on the stovetop before breading the chicken. The coating is golden brown before the chicken even bakes so that the baking time in the oven is expressly to cook the meat, not to brown the crumb. This translates to just 10 minutes in the oven for the crispest and juiciest chicken finger you'll ever eat. You don't even need a drizzle of oil on the sheet pan before it bakes, but a little drizzle of oil never hurts. I like to pair the coconut flavor with one of three dipping sauces: Mango Chutney, Honey-Lime, or Orange Ketchup (see recipes below).

Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; dry measuring cups; measuring spoons; small mixing bowl; (mini) food processor; rubber spatula; spoons; fork; (3) wide shallow bowls; large sauté pan; rimmed sheet pan; tongs

Chicken Ingredients:

4, 6-oz split chicken breasts

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ cup all-purpose flour 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1 cup shredded desiccated coconut (unsweetened) 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Honey-Lime Dipping Sauce Ingredients: ¼ cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt ¼ cup honey

fistful of cilantro leaves

zest and juice of 1 lime

Orange Ketchup Dipping Sauce Ingredients:

¼ cup apricot jam

¼ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 teaspoon sriracha (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. If making the Honey-Lime and/or Orange Ketchup dipping sauces, prepare those first. To make the Honey-Lime sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, creamy, and light green. To make the Orange Ketchup, combine the apricot jam, orange juice, ketchup, and optional sriracha, warming the apricot jam in the microwave for 20-30 seconds if necessary to loosen it. Set the sauces aside.

2. Slice each chicken breast diagonally into 6 strips, making a total of 24 fingers. Place them in a single layer on a cutting board or sheet pan, sprinkle generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and set aside.

"This recipe is easily made gluten-free by swapping GF flour for the all-purpose flour and GF panko for the traditional variety."

3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, toast the panko and coconut, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

4. Combine the flour with a generous pinch of salt in a wide, shallow bowl and set aside. Then beat the egg with a fork in a wide, shallow bowl and set aside. Put the toasted panko and coconut in a wide, shallow bowl and set aside. From left to right, line up the seasoned flour, egg mixture, and coconut coating, respectively.

5. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and drizzle with two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Set aside.

6. Dredge one chicken strip in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Using a fork, dip the flour-coated chicken into the egg mixture, then directly into the coconut mixture. With a dry hand, toss well to coat and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken strips.

7. Place the coated chicken fingers in a single layer divided amongst two sheet pans in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes, turning halfway through at the five-minute mark. Serve immediately with any - or all! - of the dipping sauces.

Makes 6 servings.

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