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Day 299: Chicken Strips with Honey Mustard and Pasta at Antolini’s


It’s astounding how easy homemade chicken fingers are, and how much better they are than frozen chicken nuggets. Nigella has a recipe for ‘Ritzy Chicken’ that calls for crushed Ritz crackers to be used as a coating for chunks of chicken which are then shallow-fried in oil. I want them. Instead I used Panko (very crispy Japanese breadcrumbs) and a Ziploc bag of chicken strips I had frozen in buttermilk, which I took out and thawed in a bowl of warm water to pre-feed W before Mike and I went out for his birthday dinner. Being on an actual Saturday, we had to play the birthday card to secure a babysitter (Mom) and go out.

Marinating chicken in buttermilk tenderizes it, and the buttermilk can act as a vehicle for all sorts of spices if you want to go that route. Otherwise, pull it directly out of the buttermilk and dredge in crumbs, or beat an egg to dip plain chicken in before coating it. You don’t really need Panko either – crushed crackers or breadcrumbs work fine. I like to mix them with grated Parmesan or pecans.

So that was a sort of late lunch pre-dinner for W. As for us, as usual I planned this all far too late and every restaurant I called was booked up unless we wanted to eat before 5 or after 9. Many hosts/esses sounded irritated that I would bother them with a call on a Saturday afternoon in regards to the very same evening. I figured considering our current economic climate people might not be eating out as much. Wrong.

Then I remembered Antolini’s, a wee Italian place in the old Arden Diner run by a family from Toronto who moved to Calgary a couple years ago when their three sons wanted a change. Despite the fact that it’s rated one of the top in Calgary, as well as one of the most inexpensive (on UrbanSpoon), despite the fact that the family has run their restaurant (in Toronto before here) for almost 30 years, all their pastas are handmade, as is the ricotta and bocconcini and tiramisu, we were the only ones in the place save for one other couple who came in halfway through our dinner. The father served us and was welcoming, sincere, attentive, friendly, generous. They brought a plate of homemade tomato bruschetta while we perused the menu. The salads arrived in about 5 minutes (one of the best Caesars I’ve had), and the pastas (mine was something or other stuffed with spinach and fresh ricotta, Mike always has to have the carbonara if it’s available – this was fettucine) arrived about 5 minutes after the salad plates were whisked away. Everytime he placed plates of food before us, he’d quietly say “it’s delicious“, as if to subtly plant the idea in our minds before we started eating. It always was. I wish I could give them a few decor tips and suggest that they serve fresh butter with their bread basket rather than little plastic packets of Becel, but the food was fantastic. It made me sad that while down the street people were clamouring to spend their money at JaroBlue or Farm or Eight, this lovely family patiently waited for someone to come in to what seemed like an extension of their home.

(We did walk down the street and take a peek into Farm after – it’s the new charcuterie owned by Janice Beaton down by Cafe Beano, where you can order cheese and meat samplers served on wooden slabs with fresh bread and condiments – but that’s another story.) Dessert was a little box of treats from Brûlée Patisserie in lieu of a cake, which we ate on the couches at Eau Claire market before our movie (Burn After Reading – OK.)

Chicken Strips with Honey Mustard

If you prefer, these can be cooked in a hot skillet with a little oil instead of baking them in the oven. 

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into strips (about 1 lb.)
1/2 cup buttermilk or 1 large egg
1 – 2 cups Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), corn flake crumbs, dry breadcrumbs or finely crushed crackers
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Honey & mustard, for dipping

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Break the egg into a shallow dish and beat it a little with a fork. If you are using buttermilk, pour it over the chicken and refrigerate for an hour. Combine crumbs, any additions you like, and salt and pepper in another shallow dish.

Dip chicken strips into egg (or remove from buttermilk) and roll in crumbs to coat well. Place about an inch apart on a greased baking sheet. If you want, lightly spray the strips with cooking spray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Mix equal amounts of honey and mustard for dipping.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 264 calories, 5.1 g total fat (2.1 g saturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated fat, 0.6 g polyunsaturated fat), 31.2 g protein, 20.9 g carbohydrate, 124.6 mg cholesterol, 0.6 g fiber. 18% calories from fat.

Curried Almond Chicken Fingers: coat chicken strips in a mixture of 1 1/2 cups crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds, and 1 tsp. curry powder.

Pecan Crusted Chicken Fingers: coat chicken strips in a mixture of 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, 1/2 cup corn flake or Panko crumbs, 2 tbsp. flour, salt & pepper.

Spicy Chicken Fingers: add 1 tsp. chili powder to the crumb mixture, and a few drops of Tabasco sauce to the buttermilk.

Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Fingers: dip chicken strips in low fat creamy ranch dressing spiked with a teaspoon of bottled hot pepper sauce, then roll in crumbs to coat.

Crispy Sesame Chicken Fingers: roll chicken strips in a mixture of half crumbs, half sesame seeds. Serve with sweet & sour or sweet garlic dipping sauce.



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12 comments on “Day 299: Chicken Strips with Honey Mustard and Pasta at Antolini’s

  1. Lisa
    October 26, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Me and hubby are totally going to Antolini’s as soon as I can muster it (I’m officially “over due” today!!). We had our first date at the Arden Diner (9 years ago on the 30th – how is it possible that I’ve lived in this wretched city for 9 years!!!) and we always used to go there for the anniversary of our first date. If I haven’t popped out a baby, maybe we can do Antolini’s this year!

  2. JulieVR
    October 26, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Wretched city?!!
    Where are you from?

  3. robyn
    October 26, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Wretched city? I love Calgary! And I’m a Vancouver girl!

  4. Erica
    October 26, 2008 at 10:59 am

    As another variation on the chicken finger theme, I really like to use falafel mix as a coating – much like this: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/crispy-falafel-chicken-with-yogurt-salad-recipe/index.html

  5. Tina
    October 26, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Cut the woman some slack – what’s not “wretched” when you’re “over-due”?!?!?!

    Anyway. That restaurant sounds great, I had never heard of it but would love to go there now! Maybe Julie’s endorsement will be just the advertisement it needs.

  6. Lisa
    October 26, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    I’m a Regina girl. I guess the city isn’t “wretched”, but I don’t think it will ever grow on me. I entirely blame my hubby for keeping me here. 😉

  7. Christina
    October 26, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks for the recipe!! This is what we’re having for dinner tonight! The kids will have it with fries and my husband and !! Looking forward to it!

  8. Christina
    October 26, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Oops … let me finish that sentance …
    the husband and I will have it over ceasar salad!
    Thanks again!

  9. Rebecca
    October 28, 2008 at 6:14 am

    Thanks for two great tips today! I have some leftover buttermilk in my fridge from making muffins and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Now, I know. Plus, LOVE getting new restaurant suggestions! I’m totally going to check out Antolini’s the next time that I’m in the city (because I love Italian food more than I love new restaurants…)

  10. Kathryn
    October 28, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Oh, Julie, you are so lucky. Antolini was absolutely our favourite restaurant here in Toronto. We adored it. Your description is reminiscent of our experiences. Mr. Antolini was always so gracious, and the food fantastic.

    I am envious.

    First time we are in Calgary, I know where we will be eating.


  11. Landon
    November 17, 2013 at 1:41 am

    I wilol immediately grasp your rss as I can’t find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service.
    Do you’ve any? Kindly let me recognise so that I may just subscribe.


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