Photo: Scott Suchman for The Washington Post
These healthfully baked chicken tenders get their crunchy exterior from a coating of crushed crispy rice cereal and almonds, gently seasoned with paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. The tenders are extra-tender inside, thanks to a quick brine in buttermilk, which also helps the crispy coating adhere. The buttermilk soak simplifies the prep and results in lighter-tasting tenders compared to a traditional flour-and-egg dredge. The tangy-sweet honey-mustard dipping sauce delivers just the right finishing pop of flavor.
Active time: 20 mins Total time: 35 mins (plus 20 mins to 2 hours marinating time)
Make Ahead: The chicken tenders need to be brined in the buttermilk for at least 20 minutes (or up to 2 hours) before cooking.
Storage Notes: Leftover honey-mustard sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
FOR THE CHICKEN
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders or skinless, boneless chicken breast pounded to 1/2-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch wide slices
1 cup low-fat well-shaken buttermilk
3 cups crisp puffed rice cereal (ideally, brown rice cereal)
1/2 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sliced almonds, chopped
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the buttermilk, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
When ready to cook, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then place a wire rack on top.
Put the rice cereal in a resealable plastic bag, squeeze out excess air and, using a rolling pin or mallet, crush until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer the crushed cereal to a shallow bowl or dish, such as an 8-inch square baking dish. Add the almonds, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Working with one or two pieces at a time, remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Dip the chicken in the crumb mixture and coat well, pressing lightly on the chicken so the crumbs adhere on all sides. Transfer the chicken to the prepared rack and roast for about 12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. (Discard the remaining buttermilk marinade and crumb coating.)
While the chicken is cooking, in a small dish, stir the mustard, honey and the mayonnaise until well combined.
Serve the chicken tenders hot or warm, with the sauce on the side for dipping.
Makes 6 servings
Per serving: Calories 339; Total Fat 15g (Saturated Fat 2g); Cholesterol 75mg; Sodium 596mg; Total Carbohydrates 23g; Dietary Fiber 3g; Protein 29g; Sugar 7g