It’s funny how as I get older, my relationship with my parents has changed to one where the roles seem to be reversed. I find that I worry about my parents like how my parents use to worry about me. My dad has occasional cravings for fast food and fried food. At times, I’ll give in and indulge him but other times, I have to make him choose healthier options. Chicken fingers and fries are a typical choice but I hate the idea of eating an entire meal that’s been deep fried, let alone serving it. So today I offer a recipe for a much healthier alternative that is certainly not short on flavour. I’ll even go as far as saying that perhaps these are the BEST oven-baked chicken fingers I’ve ever made or had. The smashed potatoes replace french fries and my chicken fingers are oven-baked, but still crispy and moist. These are usually the kinds of things I like to make my dad: healthier versions of anything he likes.

Chicken Fingers (serves 2)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tbsp. salt
Canola oil

Preheat your oven to 420 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil with the shiny side facing up. Then place a rack on the baking sheet. (This is important!)

Cut the chicken breasts into strips; each breast should yield approximately 4 pieces. Set aside.

In one bowl, mix the flour and salt together. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together. In a third bowl, combine the cornmeal, bread crumbs, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Keep the bowls in that order to create a chicken finger assembly line. Take one strip and cover it in the flour mixture and then shake off any excess. Then coat it in the egg and shake off the excess. Finally, cover it in the cornmeal and bread crumb mixture until completely covered. Place on the rack and repeat with all the other strips. Then spray both sides of the strips with canola oil until lightly covered (not saturated). Bake for 15 minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked through. Serve with honey mustard, smashed potatoes, and a green salad.

If you want really crispy chicken fingers, I highly recommend you bake them the way that I’ve explained here. By baking them on the rack and having aluminum foil underneath ensures that the chicken doesn’t sit in its juices or oil and stays crispy on both sides. In the past, I baked them directly on the baking sheet and flipped it halfway through. But it yielded chicken that was soggy and not evenly crispy.

Honey-Mustard Dip

Mix together equal parts honey and Dijon mustard. I prefer using mustard that has the coarse mustard seeds throughout.

Smashed Potatoes (serves 2)

2 Yukon gold potatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked all the way through.

Preheat oven to 420 degrees F. Let the potatoes cool or run it under cold water and then smash it with either your hands or a frying pan (we used the latter). Place it onto a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are a golden-brown colour.

You can easily make this in advance by boiling the potatoes ahead of time and then smashing them when it comes time to baking. You’ll notice that both dishes are made at the same temperature. I’ve ensured this so that you can make everything at the same time. Just pop the chicken fingers in about halfway through the potatoes’ cooking time.