A few nights ago it was just my daughter and I for an early afternoon, pre-hockey practice dinner and I wanted to make something light and easy but still a little bit special for the two of us. I had a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts on hand and a bag of baby arugula that I knew I wanted to use, but I didn't want to make the chicken in the same old way that I usually do. Happily for us, I knocked a bag of shredded coconut out of the side door of the fridge as I was taking the chicken out and then I remembered about a coconut-crusted chicken recipe that I'd been meaning to make for some time. If only I weren't such a procrastinator!! We've been missing out on this tropical treat for far too long!! If you like coconut you're going to love this!
I'm a coconut lover--I love Mounds bars, coconut cream pie, coconut cake, macaroons...you make it with coconut and I'm there. But I haven't really explored the savory use of coconut all that much. Here it's used as a subtle coating along with panko breadcrumbs and cornflake crumbs to add a crunchy sweetness to the chicken that's unusual and delicious. I'm now a savory coconut lover too!
And these chicken strips are pretty healthy and low in calories too, because they're baked--not fried. You simply dip the chicken into egg whites and then coat with the coconut crumb mixture before baking them. Super east!
The salad is a breeze to make. My daughter and I love toasted pine nuts so I added them to the arugula along with some chopped scallions and dried cranberries. And this is totally versatile too. Sub in whatever veggies you like, use different lettuce, add some shredded cheese--whatever--it's all good! Then I just dressed this with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.
The chicken is crispy, slightly sweet, not greasy at all and pairs really well with the slight peppery bitterness of the arugula. The crunch of the pine nuts, sweetness of the dried cranberries and tang of the scallions also round this out nicely. We both loved this and it was light yet nourishing enough to have my girl zooming around the ice with a bit of a tropical flair!!
Baked Coconut Chicken and Arugula Salad
Makes enough for 2 with a nice amount of leftover chicken
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Bake Time: About 30 minutes
For the chicken tenders
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup panko
- 3 tablespoons cornflake crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup egg whites (I used 3 eggs)
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into tenders
For the Salad
- 1 bag baby arugula
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
- 1/3 cup chopped scallions
For the balsamic vinaigrette
I normally don't measure when I do this--it's just by eye, but if you feel you want to measure it out, here are the approximate ratios.
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- pinch of sea salt
- pinch of black pepper
For the Recipe
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Spray a non-stick baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a shallow bowl, or large plate, combine the coconut, panko, cornflake crumbs and a pinch of the salt together well. In another bowl, beat the egg whites.
3. Season the chicken on both sides with the kosher salt and pepper. Then dip into the egg whites and then into the crumb mixture, making sure to coat each piece well. Transfer to the baking sheet. Lightly spray the chicken with the vegetable spray and bake for about 15 minutes, then turn chicken over and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside.
4. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the salad. Place the arugula into a large bowl. Add the pine nuts, dried cranberries and scallions. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad and toss. Then add the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and toss again. Divide the salad between the plates and top with two pieces of the chicken. Serve immediately.
5. Leftover chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days. It tastes great cold too!
Note: Baked Coconut Chicken adapted from Skinnytaste by Gina Homolka. I increased the chicken amount but left the rest of the proportions the same.