These chicken fingers are fast food, Mouse-House style. They’re the perfect thing to make when you Just Need To Eat, Like Now (a fairly common occurrence at our place these days, given that we just moved). The dish is really versatile—and easy to throw together on the fly. It’s one of the things I like to whip up when friends pop over unexpectedly.
In terms of prep, these chicken fingers only take a few minutes to put together. Drop a few handfuls of fresh basil leaves onto your chicken tenders. Then wrap a slice of prosciutto around each. Fifteen minutes in the oven, and the prosciutto is nicely crisped, and the chicken is cooked through and juicy as can be.
About buying prosciutto
Now, I almost always have a little prosciutto in the house. If that sounds like a cost-prohibitive practice in this crappy economy, hear me out.
Most big American delis will sell two basic kinds of prosciutto: domestic and imported.
Now the imported stuff—real prosciutto de Parma—is great, but it’s expensive. We generally save it for occasions when we want to enjoy its rich, buttery texture uncooked on its own, or wrapped simply around ripe slices of fig or melon.
When we use prosciutto to cook, however, we generally get the domestic kind, which is much cheaper. (Our butcher, McKinnon’s, carries the stuff for $5.99 a pound, which is much better than the $17.99 price that its imported cousin commands.)
Any kind of prolonged cooking generally toughens up the tender slices of salty pig, so domestic is just fine for cooking in my book. In the case of these chicken fingers, it gives the chicken a sort of unsmoked, paper-thin, bacon-y wrapper.
I also only really buy a half pound at a time, to ensure that it doesn’t dry out before we use it up. To me, that’s short money for a really flavorful ingredient.
As fancy as you want to be
To serve this as part of a more elegant dinner, get a little fancy with how you arrange the herbs under the prosciutto. It’s fairly translucent when cooked, which means that the herbs will show through.
While we’re on the topic of fresh herbs
Indulge me for a minute.
People never believe me when I say this the first time, but: I love to garden. (Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in the city for so long. But it’s true. I love to garden.) I love to dig and get messy. I especially love to plant things that I can cook or eat—which makes all the sense in the world, I know.
For this recipe, I used basil that I have growing in my new container garden on our back deck.
Since we get a ton more sun at our new place in Salem, one of the first things I did was plant a kitchen container garden. (OK, we’re not planning on eating the cacti…) It was right up there with making strawberry ice cream. It was just something that I had an inexplicable and urgent need to do. Before we finished unpacking. Before we totally explored our new hood. (And of course, completely vexing The Angry Chef yet again.)
Whenever I’ve been able to—and even when I wasn’t supposed to—I’ve planted a large kitchen garden. Sometime, ask me about the years I spent living on the top floor of an old movie theater, where I planted a secret garden on the roof, complete with pink flamingos and an embarrassing expanse of astroturf.
Hands down, I love to play in the dirt. And when you cook a lot, nothing beats just walking outside and snipping off whatever you need for dinner.
Oh, if you can make it out, there’s a baby fig tree nestled in one of the pots in the center. I’ll be writing more about that little guy soon. I bought him at the farmer’s market here in Salem, and the guy who sold him to me promised that he’d bear figs next year. I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced it will work, but I’m going to try my best. Stay tuned for that.
Serving suggestions for chicken fingers
I usually whack them into nibble-sized pieces and serve them on a platter as an appetizer. I don’t bother getting fancy with the presentation. You can also serve them whole, with a side of rice and a big, crunchy salad. Or on a bulkie roll topped with fresh tomato sauce and sprinkled with grated Parmesan and sliced provolone.
You can also replace the basil with sage. Or fresh garlic, sliced paper thin. Or cilantro. Or sliced apples. You get the picture.
A note on portion sizes and recipe scaling
I find myself saying this a lot lately: This recipe is more method than actual recipe. It’s one of those recipes that works just as well for one chicken finger as it does for one hundred—which makes it easy to feed the crowd you have on hand.
One chicken finger = one piece of chicken, two or three basil leaves (depending on their size), and one piece of prosciutto.
Scale away! I’ve done the recipe below to feed about 4 as a main course.
Prosciutto and Basil Wrapped Chicken Fingers
12 chicken tenders (or chicken breast sliced into strips)
12 slices prosciutto
about 24 basil leaves
freshly cracked black pepper
Serves about 4 as a main course, or 10-12 as an appetizer, depending on how you slice them up.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
Wrap the chicken in prosciutto
Grab your chicken tenders. If you like, you can also slice up larger chicken breasts into tender-sized strips. Totally up to you.
Put a few basil leaves on top of the chicken. Use enough basil to cover the chicken (so that each bite has a piece of the herb).
Grab a piece of prosciutto. Starting at one end of the chicken tender, wrap the prosciutto around the chicken, keeping the basil leaves in place, so it looks like a little mummy.
Don’t worry if some of the basil peeps through. You’re not going for perfection here. (That will happen by itself in the oven.)
Set the wrapped-up chicken on your prepared sheet pan. If the ends of the prosciutto are peeking out, tuck them under the chicken. I don’t bother toothpicking them. They stay together just fine.
Repeat with the rest of your chicken tenders.
Drizzle a little olive oil on each piece of chicken. Then sprinkle with a little kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Pop the pan into your pre-heated 425-degree oven. Bake for about 15 minutes.
Fifteen minutes should be long enough to cook most chicken tenders. (If you cut your own, and they’re on the thick side, cut into one to be sure.)
They’re done when the chicken juices run clear and the prosciutto is nice and crisp.
(That little one there is for the dog.)
If you’re a meat thermometer type of person, you’re aiming for 165 degrees.
Serve and enjoy! They also reheat really well, and are great at room temperature—or even cold.