A few weeks ago during an extreme bout of procrastination, I spent 2 full hours looking through old college pictures instead of writing. Since they are tucked away in a separate library from my food images and I don’t do facebook deep dives very often, I rarely come across pictures form this period of my life. But once I started looking, like driving by the Jaws of Life on the side of the highway, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the horror.
It’s an apt analogy, because while scrolling through the 100’s of pregaming shots and selfies with various guy friends kissing me on the cheek, the two words that kept popping into my head were: train wreck. Between the extra 10 pounds in my cheeks and the droopy black mascara eyes and the slinky tops that required multiple pieces of boob tape, it was clear that my college boyfriends only dated me for my personality. Luckily, I was in good company. All of my friends, bless their little late night pizza loving hearts, looked similarly bloated and terrible. But black make-up not withstanding, looking back on our meal routines, I know one of the many reasons why. And it’s a little Brown tradition called Chicken Finger Friday.
Chicken Finger Friday was a magical day at the end of the week when the dining halls would take a break from their usual healthy array of pizza and mac n’ cheese, and serve just chicken fingers. By noon, the line would stretch from one end of the cafeteria to the other, with students trying to fulfill their Freshman 15 in just one sitting. Sure, the fingers were delicious. But it was also a special social time, when you could expect to run into the majority of your friends in the same place for a meal, and be assured that none of them would make you feel like a fatty by eating a salad.
I often miss the brazen gluttony of college. And this is one of the traditions, in addition to late night pizza, that I think back on most fondly. It’s rare that you see chicken fingers anywhere but the kids menu these days. And I have yet to come across a gluten-free version. So when my friends over at Sir Kensington’s asked me to come up with a dish using their new Dijon mustard, my mind went directly to the front lines of the VDub to recreate the chicken fingers recipe of my (and their) youth.
Scott and Mark got into the condiment business while they were still at Brown by making homemade ketchup in their bathtub. They’ve since expanded into a much more legitimate and sanitary operation with their brand Sir Kensington’s, which has one of my favorite taglines ever: “more refined because it’s less refined.” So true with food. So much less so with my wardrobe circa 2004.
Being a condiment hoarder, I was thrilled to give their new mustards a home next to the SK spicy mayo and ketchup already in my fridge. And the Dijon made for the ultimate refined binder for my updated gluten-free Chicken Finger Friday recipe with crushed organic corn flakes as the breading. The fingers are baked, not fried, which means, if you have the beer-expanded belly and appetite of a college student, you can eat many more of them before your face starts looking like this.
I hope you pick up a jar. It’s the best for your wurst. And certainly for your grown-up Chicken Finger Friday.
Gluten-Free Dijon Baked Chicken Fingers
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small food processor, pulse the cornflakes with the salt and paprika until finely ground. Remove to a shallow bowl and drizzle in the olive oil. Whisk with a fork until the cornflake crumbs are coated and not clumping together.
In a second bowl, beat the eggs until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the Dijon and garlic. Add the chicken and toss until well coated.
Working one by one, dredge the chicken in the cornflake mixture, shaking off any excess. Dip the tenders in the egg and return them to the cornflakes, pressing down until fully coated. Arrange the tenders in an even layer on the baking sheet.
Bake in the oven until golden and crispy, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly on the tray, then serve alongside ketchup and mustard.