Mmm, mmm, mmm. Give me a plate of these and a big glass of sangria and I’m a very happy mouse. These chicken fingers are a perfect foil for one of my favorite flavor combinations: chipotle and lime. They’re hot and spicy—and a little bit tart from a few squirts of fresh lime juice. A quick dip in a side of sour cherry compote cools them off just a smidge. And adds a touch of tangy sweetness.
The flavors in this dish are big, bold, and bright. It’s hard to believe it’s so easy to make. And easy has been important these days…we just finished moving, so I’ve been focused on food that’s fast, simple, and packed with flavor. (Hooray for the new Mouse House!)
What is a sour cherry, anyway?
Good question. Sour cherries are smaller, softer, and a little squishier than sweet cherries. You can find them in stores and at farmers’ markets during the late spring and summer.
Because they’re so tart, they’re most often used in pies, preserves, and liqueurs. Common varieties include Montmorency, Early Richmond, and Morello.
This compote is fabulous as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers, but is also yummy on turkey sandwiches, spread on toast, or spooned over vanilla ice cream.
A tip on thickening the cherry compote
I used a flour/water slurry to thicken the compote. It’s important to cook the compote for a few minutes after you add the mixture. This ensures that you get rid of the raw flour taste—and gives the mixture time to fully thicken the compote.
If you like, you could substitute a similar mixture of cornstarch and water.
Chipotle Lime Chicken Fingers with Sour Cherry Compote
Sour Cherry Compote
1 1/4 lbs. sour cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
juice of half a lime
1 Tbls. flour
2 Tbls. water
Yields about 2 cups of compote (more than enough to serve with the chicken fingers, and have plenty left over)
Chipotle Lime Chicken Fingers
1 lb. chicken tenders
juice from 1 1/2 limes
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbls. cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 tsp. ground chipotle
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer
Make the Sour Cherry Compote Ahead
You’ll want to make the compote at least a few hours ahead of time so that it can cool completely.
Grab your cherries. Pull off the stems and leaves, then pit them.
Be sure to pit them over a bowl, so you can catch any cherry juice.
It took me maybe 15 minutes to pit all the cherries.
Put the sugar and water in a medium pot on the stove over high heat.
Whisk to combine.
Squeeze in the lime juice. Keep whisking occasionally until the sugar melts completely.
When the sugar has totally dissolved, toss in the sour cherries, along with any juices from pitting them.
Keep the pot on high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, until the cherries start to really soften and break down. Stir occasionally.
In the meanwhile, mix the flour and water together with a fork or whisk.
Be sure to beat out any lumps.
When the cherry mixture has boiled for about 5-8 minutes, pour the slurry into the pot.
Whisk well to combine.
Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
The compote is ready when it coats the back of a spoon thickly. Give it a taste to be sure that any raw flour taste has cooked off. If you can still taste the flour, simmer it for another minute or two, then check it again.
Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl. Cool to room temperature, then pop it into the fridge to chill it completely.
Make the chicken fingers
Put the chicken fingers in a medium-sized bowl.
Squeeze in the lime juice.
Toss in the chopped green onion, cilantro, garlic, and kosher salt.
Add the ground chipotle. (One teaspoon of chipotle makes these guys pretty spicy. Cut the amount in half if you’re sensitive to heat. That will still give you plenty of flavor—without making your nose sweat that much.) Toss well to coat the chicken evenly.
Drizzle the olive oil into a large, non-stick skillet. Set it on the stove over high heat for a minute or two to get nice and hot. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the chicken fingers to the pan.
Leave the heat on high. Cook for about 3 minutes on that side.
After about 3 minutes, they should be nice and brown on the bottom. When they look about like this, flip ‘em over.
Cook for about 3 minutes on that side. Nick one of the fatter ones and take a peek to be sure that they’re cooked through. (Your final cooking time will depend on how thick your chicken tenders are. Particularly plump pieces may need a few minutes more.)
Serve immediately, with a side of Sour Cherry Compote for dipping.