Chicken Nuggets have a bad rap. And they should. Most of them are full of about 76 ingredients that could make a person fall asleep before they even get through the list. I can’t pronounce half of it, I don’t know what the ingredients are even if I could sound out the words, and personally I don’t like to read print that small because it makes me have to think about how much longer I have before I have to buy granny glasses at the drug store. The Applegate Farms nuggets that I bought the other day for the taste test on Dinner Confidential have no antibiotics, but water is the second ingredient.
That doesn’t sit right with me. Even if the water came from a spring in Switzerland only ever seen by cows and maidens. “Here’s your nuggets Honey–I stirred a whole bunch of water in ’em, just the way you like it.” I don’t think so.
It’s too early in the morning for me to get into talking about Perdue and Tyson.
The thing is, I would bet my bottom dollar that I could make a nugget faster than it takes to take a pack of them out of the freezer and heat them up in the oven.
Especially if you forget about breading them. Buy yourself a pack of antibiotic free chicken. Trust me.
It should be chicken breast, and to make it easier on yourself buy it with no bones or skin. Take the chicken out of the pack, put it on a clean, plastic, color coded cutting board, and cut it up with a sharp knife into one inch squares. Leaving it on the cutting board, take your clean hand and give them a fine blanket of kosher salt. Heat up a heavy frying pan with olive oil–enough to nicely cover the bottom of the pan–and add a few wide slivers of tight new onion, a clove of uncut garlic, a rosemary twig (and either a parsley sprig or a thyme sprig or if you don’t have it don’t worry about it.) Let this stuff go for a minute in the pan until they get some color, and then remove everything from the pan but the olive oil. Drop the chicken bits in there without overcrowding and DON’T TOUCH THEM. The trick is to let them sear really well on at least one side, so don’t walk away, but leave them in the pan until one side of each is a gorgeous golden brown. Now add the onion, garlic and herbs back in the pan, and shake the pan around every once in a while until they are just cooked through. Right before you think they are done, pull one apart and check to see there is no more pink. You want them to be tender; if you overcook them out of fear, they won’t be tender. Remove from the pan and give them a grind of black pepper, and a drizzle of your best olive oil. Stick two or three onto wooden skewers and serve.
The method for a more nuggety nugget: Cut up your chicken and season with salt, same as above. Get two to three bowls out depending on if you would like bread crumbs or just flour. Beat an egg and add 1 tablespoon of water. That’s one bowl. In the other, add white all purpose or pastry flour and a teeny bit of cayenne pepper. In the last bowl, panko or homemade crumbs. Set up an assembly line, keeping one hand clean and one hand for the chicken. Set up a cake rack on top of a wax paper. Dip first in flour, then egg, then rack to drip. Now either back in the flour OR in crumb, and then back on the rack. Let them sit for five minutes while you make yourself a fizzy orange with lime. Heat up the frying pan with olive oil, an uncut garlic clove and a sprig of whatever fresh herb you have, and when a piece of bread browns right away, add the chicken and brown on all sides without crowding. Serve these on a platter with a squeeze of lemon and whatever sauces you feel inspired to make–a roasted garlic and lemon mayo or roasted red pepper pureed with a tiny bit of cream, or even that parsley sauce that I posted the other day. Anyone under four feet usually takes them straight up, so you don’t even have to bother–you can enjoy the rest of your fizzy orange.