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March 14, 2011

DIY Chicken Nuggets—for real!

Slowly but surely the snow continues to melt around here, revealing last year's mush of fallen leaves and un-trimmed grass. With the cheerful accompaniment of birds' chirping I'm happy to see my backyard covered with mud rather than snow and ice. The meltdown continues.

This time I'm melting down the all time, all kids' (as far as I know) favorite—chicken nuggets. Many of us, parents, already know how unhealthy pre-cooked frozen version could be so I won't go into details. First time I cooked home made nuggets was a while ago. I repeated the attempt few more times but it digressed. Because of one problem—my home made nuggets would never come out good enough for kids to make a switch. Why, oh why?!

One day, I was watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, the very fist episode of his reality show in US and I realized what I was doing wrong. And it was revolutionary, indeed! However, very simple.

Fist of all, I was making them from the whole piece of chicken breast thus creating an unfamiliar texture. Kids could be very sensitive to the texture issue, you know! Second, I was baking them in the oven, thus making the outside not so crispy—another criteria that has not passed my chicken nuggets experts' judgement.

I saw Jamie pulverized chicken carcass in a food processor and then shape the nuggets/patties and then frying them in a little bit of oil—how easy is that! Plus this technique reminded me of the familiar one we use to make "Kotlets" (meat patties) out of minced/ground beef back in Russia.

So I tried the new way to make real nuggets. But instead of chicken carcass that was used in Jamie's experiment as a repellent, I used the expensive cut—chicken breast. And it worked! Passed kids approval on the spot with "so crispy", "so juicy" and "tasted just like the real ones" feedback. Clearly, the term 'real' is used very loosely here!

Here's what I did…

DIY Real Chicken Nuggets
{Note 1: This recipe yields 16 pieces and I fried them in a small(er) non-stick skillet, 8 at a time. For this reason I needed to add fresh oil to the pan for the second batch. But if you have bigger frying pan, you can fry them all at once and don't need to add more oil. I used olive oil (not the extra virgin) but any vegetable light oil of your choice will do}

1 1/4 lb boneless chicken breast (about 2 breasts) extra fat trimmed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground savory
(or any other dry herb of your choice)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
(if you can't find it, make it yourself—see note below)
1/2 teaspoon dry savory
(or any other dry herb of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon paprika—optional, but gives a nice color

1/4 cup olive oil (+a little more if you're frying in batches)
  1. Prep chicken: Wash and pat it dry. Cut into chunks and put it in the food processor (blender) with spices: salt, pepper, savory, onion and garlic powder. Pulse two times, set aside.
  2. Prep crumbs: add savory and paprika to the bread crumbs and mix well with fork.
    {Note 2: If you can't buy Panko bread crumbs, make it by drying 2-3 white bread slices with crust cut off in 325°F oven for 10-15 minutes until the bread is dry but not toasted. Cool a little and crumb with your hands or in a food processor}
  3. Shape the balls: measure the chicken with the cookie scoop (or tablespoon) then roll in flour and shape balls; set aside.
  4. Assemble the nuggets: make a breading "station": eggs in one bowl, crumbs mix in the other. Dip a nugget ball into eggs then roll it in the crumbs, one at a time. Press with thumb to flatten the ball. After all nuggets are shaped, pop them in the fridge while you heat oil in the pan.
  5. Fry nuggets on medium-hight to high (on my electric cook top's dial it is set to 8, so it's not all the way high but close to it), 5 minutes on one side. Flip and fry 5 more minutes. Place them on a dish towel as you take them from the pan so the excess oil is absorbed.
  6. Serve with your favorite condiment—my kids gobbled them up with ketchup—and some vegetables on the side. Plain 'ol me likes it with plain 'ol sour cream :)
My little critics happily reported that I will never have to by the 'real' chicken nuggets again. For real?!

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