Most people know that marinating meat can increase the flavor and tenderness of most meats. However, most folks use marinades that contain juice, vinegar, and other acidic ingredients when they marinate chicken, pork, or beef. The acids in the meat help to tenderize the meat and the flavors of the seasonings add to the taste of the meat. But, did you know that marinating your meat in yogurt does something incredibly amazing to it?
Rolled in crispy cheese crackers and marinated in Greek yogurt, our recipe for Cheesy Cracker Bites is one your kids are going to love! The chicken bites turn out tender, juicy, and coated in a cheerful orange crust that will make even the pickiest eater excited to dig in at dinner time. If you have a kid who prefers to eat nothing but chicken nuggets, this might be one recipe that they might decide to try because it is similar enough to the processed food version of nuggets that you might be able to squeak by.
Use a cutting board and a sharp knife to cut the chicken into small 4 to 6 inch pieces. Remove any connective tissue or fat from the chicken pieces and discard these. If your chicken breasts are very thick, you may want to pound them thinner, to about a 1 inch thickness, before you cut the chicken pieces apart. You can use a meat mallet or a rolling pin to pound the chicken breasts.
In a medium sized bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, the ranch dressing, and the water. Add the chicken to this bowl, rolling the pieces around until they are coated in the mixture. Put the bowl with the chicken in the yogurt in the fridge for about two hours.
Spray a nine by thirteen inch baking pan with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Put the cracker crumbs on a plate, spreading them into an even layer. Remove the chicken from the yogurt marinade and let the excess drip off of the chicken pieces. Roll the chicken pieces in the cracker crumbs and place them in the baking pan.
Try to keep a bit of space between the chicken pieces.
Put the baking pan into the oven and bake it at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken sit for about 5 minutes. Serve the chicken hot.
Store the leftover chicken in the refrigerator in a container with an airtight lid. Consume leftovers within 3 days. To reheat, you can warm the chicken in the microwave or place it on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
Although yogurt is a dairy product, it has acidic properties that really do special things to your chicken. Yogurt tenderizes chicken more effectively, making it soft, moist, and tender. Other kinds of marinades can leave the chicken tough and kind of rubbery. However, yogurt slowly creates a special crust around the proteins in the chicken that will make it “fall apart” tender.What are the magical components in Greek yogurt that make this such a great marinade for chicken? Calcium and lactic acid both go to work on tough protein strands and begin to soften them in a milder way than the way that citrus juices or vinegar marinades do. In fact, this way of marinating chicken is so mild that you can leave the chicken soaking in the marinade for much longer than you might when working with another marinade. You can leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours without toughening the meat or the meat dissolving into a mushy pile of goo.For this recipe, we used Greek yogurt. However, if all you have on hand is regular yogurt, that will work too. You probably will not need to add the extra water if you use regular yogurt. However, you probably will want to double check that your yogurt is plain, unsweetened yogurt without added flavors.For the crumb crust on this chicken, we used cheese-flavored crackers. These are available in several different cheesy flavor combinations. Any of these will be tasty in this recipe. On the other hand, if you do not have cheesy crackers in your pantry and you still want to try this recipe, you do not have to run out to the market. Any kind of savory cracker that is on the shelves of your pantry will likely taste delicious in this recipe. In fact, this is a great recipe to use up random, slightly stale crackers that were pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten.