Whole30 Day 13-14 Dinner: chicken tenders brings out the little girl in me every time. As a kid, the only Happy Meal I ever ordered was chicken nuggets. Occasionally, I would try to convince my mom that the boy’s Happy Meal had far superior toys, without much success, but never once did I stray from my beloved chicken nuggets. No matter how terrible a reputation fried chicken may have nowadays, it is a nostalgic pleasure I will never let go of completely. Nearly two weeks deep in the Whole30 program, we both were craving crunchy, comforting, yet compliant goodness big league. (haha! Sorry I couldn’t resist!)
To appease the fried food Goddess, I decided on Coconut Chicken Tenders. I researched several differents compliant methods and the two most popular ones utilized either Coconut or Almond flour to coat the tenders in. Since my outer crust was already going to be flaked coconut, I decided the Almond flour seemed the better option. In need of a canned cat food supply run, we made our way to TJ’s Friday afternoon and picked up a bag of Almond flour while we were there. I was incredibly skeptical about the alternative flour but for the sake of delicately sweet, crispy coconut chicken, I was willing to step outside my comfort zone (again) and give the Almond flour a chance. Upon first opening the bag, the aroma alone was enough to change my attitude about this nutty flour substitute and then when a I popped a tiny taste on my tongue, I was instantly excited to cook with it.
While trying to figure out what to pair with the coconut chicken tenders, my mind quickly wandered about the sweet delights of tropical islands like the Caribbean and the bold, sometimes ferocious spices of Africa. Since I prefer my sweets paired with something salty, sour, or spicy anyway, Callaloo Collards seemed the obvious choice to pair with the chicken. Mixing different flavor profiles up with very familiar ingredients is one of my favorite styles of cooking. Growing up in East/Southeast Texas, fried chicken and collard greens was a regular meal at our house, a special request of my father’s. My Caribbean, West African hybrid version of the same dinner was an instant hit with both of us and yet another recipe that will stay on my menu rotation even after the Whole30 program is complete.
Coconut Chicken Tenders
1 good quality Chicken Breast, sliced into tenders (Note: I used a whole chicken breast from Detwiler’s Farmer’s Market and it provided 12 tenders)
1 cup Almond Flour, more if needed
2 cups flaked unsweetened Coconut, more if needed
3 fresh Eggs
1/2 tsp sugar free 5 Spice powder, divided, optional
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set up an aluminum lined sheet tray with a baking rack and set aside.
In a med sized casserole dish or platter, add the Almond flour, half the 5 Spice powder, salt and pepper. Taste the flour and adjust seasoning as needed. In a second med sized casserole dish or platter, add the flaked coconut. In a med sized mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining 5 Spice powder and lightly salt and pepper.
Preheat a cast iron skillet over a med flame. Add to the heated skillet about 2 inches of Grapeseed oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees or until it sizzles when a pinch of flour is dropped in.
To bread the tenders, coat the chicken in the Almond flour, dusting off any excess, dip it into the egg mixture, allowing all excess to drip off, and finish by coating in the coconut. Continue until all tenders are coated. Drop the coated tenders into the oil, in batches, and fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until the tenders are lightly golden. The coconut will cook extremely quickly so do not leave the tenders unattended. Once golden on both sides, transfer the tenders to the sheet pan and bake in the oven until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached. My tenders were a bit on the chunky side, so I baked mine an additional 10 minutes but time will vary. Serve the Coconut Chicken Tenders immediately with your favorite sides. (I enjoyed leftover tenders the following evening dipped in Dijon Mustard.)
Callaloo Collard Greens
2 bunches Collard Greens, thoroughly washed and rough bottom stems removed
4 slices good quality Bacon
1 sm Green Bell pepper
2 Jalapenos, chopped
1 Cayenne, chopped
Note: traditionally Callaloo is cooked with a Habanero or Scotch Bonnet chili. I had neither on hand so went with the Jalapeno/Cayenne combination because that’s what was available in my garden. Plus, I wasn’t sure if the additional palette I needed to feed could handle the hotter chile. Please feel free to use one the more authentic chilies, if desired.
1 Green Scallion, trimmed and chopped
1 Tomato, chopped
1 can Coconut Milk, plus one can of Water
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat a slow cooker to the high setting. Add in the bacon, green bell, tomato, scallion, onion, and bacon. Allow the slow cooker to heat up about 15 minutes.
While the slow cooker is heating, stack several collard leaves on top of each on a cutting board. Roll the leaves into a cigar shape and slice thinly from one end to the other. Separate the ribbons and set aside. To learn more about how to Chiffonade please visit this helpful site:
Add the can of Coconut plus one can of water to the slow cooker. To that add the collard greens and cover with the lid. Continue to cook on high about 2 hours. Press the greens into the broth as needed as the leaves begin to wilt. Turn the slower cooker to the low setting and continue to braise until the collards are tender, about 2 to 3 additional hours. Once tender, turn off the heat, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.