Chicken tender sitting on couscous
45 Minutes or Less,  Chicken,  Dinner,  Food

Queso Couscous with Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

Queso couscous with cheesy panko crusted chicken tenders make for an easy weeknight dinner that’s ready in thirty minutes!

This fun Chopped at Home Challenge™ recipe was sponsored by Sargento® and their Off the Block 4 Cheese Mexican.

Queso Couscous and Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

When I’m presented with a challenge, it’s hard not to accept. In this case, the challenge from Sargento was to create a recipe using four ingredients to mimic the Chopped challenge.

I’m a big fan of Chopped, Ted Allen, and the infamous cast of rotating Food Network chef judges. Chopped at Home Challenge? You’re ON.

Open Your Basket

The meal? Dinner.

The ingredients? Sargento Off the Block 4 Cheese Mexican, couscous, salsa, and boneless chicken tenders.

Time? 30 minutes.

The ingredients in my “virtual basket” don’t seem too daunting, but it still took me a while to come up with a meal that wasn’t simply quesadillas. (Not that there’s anything wrong with quesadillas.)

Everyone in our house is a fan of my panko breaded chicken tenders. I thought: what if I combined the Sargento Off the Block 4 Cheese Mexican with the panko?

Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican and panko breadcrumbs

What happened is this: it formed a cheesy, crunchy coating that, when seared, kept the chicken tenders moist, juicy and so, so good.

See the crispy, lacy cheese around the edges? That was my favorite part.

Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

I mean, really. Does it get any better?

Cheese Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

Next up was a creative way to use the couscous, salsa, and more cheese.

Couscous is an odd ingredient, and I must admit that I’m not a big fan of teeny-tiny couscous. I prefer the pearl or Israeli couscous, especially for things like my summer couscous salad. It resembles traditional pasta, and doesn’t dry out in the way that the teensy kind does (or maybe I’m just not cooking it correctly — who knows).

I decided to make a béchamel, and then whisk in the cheese and salsa to produce a queso-like sauce for the couscous.

Mmmm… Cheese.

Queso Couscous Sauce

… and salsa …

Queso Couscous Sauce

As for the couscous, I browned it for a few minutes in a pot with some olive oil and a couple of fresh garlic cloves, before I added homemade chicken stock and let it simmer until al dente.

Queso Couscous

Then, once the couscous was ready, I folded in that silky queso sauce…

Queso Couscous

Everything was ready in about thirty minutes. SCORE! And my family gobbled it up.

Queso Couscous with Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

Amazingly, there was leftover queso sauce. Rest assured, it didn’t go to waste! It was devoured afterwards with some crispy tortilla chips.

Queso Couscous with Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

Queso Couscous and Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Queso couscous with cheesy panko crusted chicken tenders make for an easy weeknight dinner that's ready in 30 minutes!

Ingredients

For the Queso Couscous

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup Sargento Off the Block 4 Cheese Mexican
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders:

  • 8 boneless chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup Sargento Off the Block 4 Cheese Mexican
  • 4 tablespoons high heat oil (canola, vegetable, sesame, peanut)
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Instructions

For the Queso Couscous:

  1. Add the olive oil and garlic to a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once warm, pour in the couscous and let it cook until it's golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Pour the chicken stock in all at once, then cover it and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a separate sauce pan over medium heat. Once foamy, whisk in the flour and let it cook for 2 minutes. Pour the milk in all at once, increase the heat to medium-high, and continue whisking until it's thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove it from heat.
  3. Whisk in the salt, garlic powder and cheese, followed by the salsa. Drain the couscous (if needed), remove the garlic, and then gently fold the sauce into the couscous until it's mixed in well. Serve hot.

For the Cheesy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders:

  1. Add the oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour to a small plate and add the eggs to a bowl. Toss the panko and cheese together on another small plate.
  2. Sprinkle each tender with salt, then coat them in flour, dip them in egg, and lastly dredge them in the panko-cheese mixture.
  3. Cook the tenders in the hot skillet for 4 minutes, then flip them and continue cooking them for another 4 minutes, until they're a deep golden brown and crispy around the edges.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1486Total Fat: 83gSaturated Fat: 30gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 46gCholesterol: 448mgSodium: 3580mgCarbohydrates: 65gFiber: 4gSugar: 12gProtein: 114g

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Hi, I'm Liza, a self-proclaimed word-nerd who loves getting sucked into whimsical stories and epic movies. I have laid-back, practical attitude towards life, and as a foodie at heart, I relish the chance to both cook and eat. (No picky-eater here!) Always on the hunt for good eats, easy recipes, binge-worthy shows, relaxing road trip destinations, the perfect mojito and time to finish my novel!

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