A batch of these has never lasted in my house for more than a day. This is due mostly to my husband, not my kids. As he is older and wiser, he understands just how pureed eggplant can make for tenderness and subtle smokiness (and although old and wise, he has a hard time sharing!).
Technique tip: I like to use a pastry brush to help get an even layer of eggplant puree on the chicken, but if you don't have a pastry brush you can just dip the chicken in the eggplant and wipe off any large clumps of eggplant with your finger.
Swap option: Don't have any wheat germ? Simply skip it or use ground flaxseed or wheat bran instead.
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 5 cups corn or wheat flake cereal (9 ounces), such as cornflakes
- 1/3 cup wheat germ
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 12-15 chicken tenders (2 pounds)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- canola or avocado oil, for frying
Preheat the oven to 425 F.2.
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place the halves cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with the olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake the eggplant until it is very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven and set it aside to cool slightly.3.
While the eggplant cooks, pulse the cereal several times in a food processor until it is coarsely chopped and looks similar to large panko breadcrumbs. Add the wheat germ, garlic powder, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the food processor and pulse just a couple of times to mix everything together. Transfer the cereal coating to a medium bowl (no need to clean out the food processor, you'll need it in the next step), then set aside.4.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scrape its flesh into the food processor; discard the skin and stem. Process until the eggplant is completely pureed (this should give you about 1 cup puree), then transfer it to a second medium bowl.5.
Season the chicken tenders on all sides using another 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the flour to a third medium bowl. Toss each tender, one at a time, in the flour, coating it completely, then shaking off any excess. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the eggplant, again coating it completely (a pastry brush can really help to evenly coat). Next, transfer the tender to the bowl with the cereal, making sure to get a good coating of the cereal on all sides of the chicken tender by really pressing the cereal into it.
To fry: Fill a large high-sided skillet with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of oil, then heat it over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Carefully dip the tip of one of the breaded chicken tenders in the hot oil; if the oil bubbles vigorously, it is ready; if not, wait another minute and try again (your oil should be about 375 F). When the oil is hot, working in batches of four (you don't want to crowd the pan), fry the tenders in the oil until they are golden-brown and cooked through (165 F), 3 to 4 minutes per side. Continue frying until all the chicken tenders are done, transferring cooked tenders to a cooling rack to help them stay crispy while you finish up.
To bake: Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil spray. Place the breaded tenders on the prepared baking sheet, and then drizzle them with olive oil or spray them with cooking oil spray. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then flip and continue cooking until they are lightly browned and cooked through, another 7 to 10 minutes. An air fryer also works great.