My opinion of chicken tenders changed the day I learned the secret of a certain House of Chicken.
Although the quality of chicken and the items you choose to bread it with do count for something, what really makes a tender, savory chicken finger is a brine. A salty solution that you employ as a sort of marinade, a brine can be composed of many different ingredients. It soaks into the meat and has a tenderizing as well as flavoring effect, although it is much more pronounced in a thinner cut of meat. In this particular method however, the secret/only ingredient is...pickle juice! I favor Claussen, or a similar flavored dill.
Let the chicken soak in the juice for a day, an hour, whatever you have to spare. Then flour, egg wash, and coat it in a crumby mixture of your choice. One day, I had just the ends of a baguette, so I supplemented with toasted, ground pecans and grated parmigiano. Needless to say, plain old breadcrumbs don't really do it for me anymore.
I don't deep fry the chicken; I usually just have about a half inch of oil in the pan. It also helps to put a lid over the pan when the chicken is cooking, so you don't burn the outside before you cook it through.
I nearly always serve this chicken with a green salad for lunch, and an additional side if we're having it for dinner. The nasturtiums are blooming vibrant orange and yellow in the garden, so of course they were included. If you've never had a nasturtium, they are edible flowers that have a spicy finish, much like arugula. I prefer to pair them with milder salad greens. They're oh-so pretty perched on a salad, and baby Buckley was almost as excited as I was to be munching on flowers.
chicken tenders (or breasts)
pickle juice, to cover
1 c breadcrumbs
1 c toasted, coarsely ground pecans
1/2 c grated parmigiano
1 c flour
Marinate chicken in pickle juice for thirty minutes to one day (the longer the better).
Season flour and place in a shallow bowl. Add a few tablespoons of water to eggs and whisk. Stir breadcrumbs, pecans, and cheese together in a separate shallow bowl. Dredge chicken through flour, shaking off excess, then eggs, shaking off excess, then crumb mixture.
Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil over high heat. Fry chicken on both sides until cooked through.