Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Crunchiest Baked Chicken Nuggets of Your Life

Chicken McNuggets. Who didn’t love those growing up? You would get your happy meal, open up the spicy mustard sauce, dip in a nugget and bite into the greasy, yet somehow delicious, breaded chicken (?). Every now and then you would get one of those hard as rock pieces that looking back on it today was probably ground up chicken bone or something. But you loved it (or at least I did). Thank goodness, in 2003, McDonald’s switched to an all-white meat nugget.

Besides McDonald’s chicken nuggets, my mom used to buy the frozen nuggets and bake them for my sister and me when she and my dad were heading out for a date night. We’d eat our dinner, which usually consisted of the chicken nuggets, yogurt (grape and cherry that she would split between the two of us), and probably other things that I’m forgetting right now, at the kitchen table while our parents would proceed to close all of the curtains and shades in the downstairs of our house before they left. I know they were doing it so no one could see that we had a babysitter and they weren’t home, but looking back on it, it would have been a complete green light for anyone who wanted to come into our house and attack as the downstairs curtains were barely ever closed. Ha.

Anyway, now that I’m older, I ask myself (and you), why are chicken nuggets such a “kid’s food”? I mean, they are delicious. Us adults should not have to limit our chicken eating to tenders or full breasts or thighs or whatever we are supposed to grow into liking. Now, I’m not encouraging everyone to rush out to Mickey D’s right now and get a happy meal, but I’m proposing an alternative. Baked chicken nuggets! These chicken nuggets are great. I promise that kids from 1 to 91 (cue the Christmas music) will enjoy them. They are not fried in oil, but they still turn out super crispy (hence, the crunchiest baked chicken nuggets of your life). The key ingredient is the panko breadcrumbs; however, it is essential to bake the panko before you bread the nuggets. The first time I made them, I wasn’t exactly sure how much panko I would need for my individual serving so I just guesstimated. Of course, I ran out of the baked panko, so I proceeded to finish up a couple more nuggets with panko straight from the box—they were not nearly as crispy.

I have also included a recipe for a delish honey-mustard dipping sauce. Not quite the same as McDonald’s spicy mustard, but definitely tasty. Feel free to dip in whatever you prefer, be it ranch, ketchup, honey, etc.

Note: I suppose I will allow you to make them as chicken tenders. Just cut the chicken into strips instead of nuggets and you may need to increase the baking time. But I really think the nuggets are more fun. And if you have kiddos, they will love them. I promise! :)

Baked Chicken Nuggets (from Everyday Food Magazine)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp peanut oil (or other vegetable oil)
1/2 cup flour (any kind, I used wheat)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Spread panko on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 6 minutes. Transfer to a shallow dish and add parmesan and salt. Drizzle with the oil and stir to combine.

Place flour and egg in separate shallow dishes.

Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In batches, coat the chicken in flour, shaking off the excess, dip in egg and then coat with panko, pressing to adhere. Place on wire rack.

Bake until the chicken in cooked through, 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through.

While baking, mix the mustard, mayo and honey in a small bowl.

Dip nuggets in sauce and eat!

Serves 4.

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