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Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Okay.  A show of hands.  Who else threw caution to the wind and took sweet refuge in McDonalds Playland when your kids were little?

I'm admitting in the wide-open.

There was just something magical about that little, enclosed room filled with colorful plastic tubes big enough to crawl through in tiny-stockinged feet that could keep my tots occupied to no end.

Chubby little fists wrapped around a chicken nugget.  Happy meal toy being played with in the opposite hand.  Cold apple slices or thin yellow fries.  Straw poking out of a carton of chocolate milk.  And a good half hour of... look, mom!

Those days are long gone now.  Along with our time spent at Mc Donalds.  Sure, we'll still get an occasional urge, but my urges are never for McNuggets.  I've always been a Big Mac or Chicken Sandwich kind of girl.
But the kids?  They'll still choose nuggets 50% of the time.  With age, they've grown to favor whole-meat chicken strips and chunks, but I think they hold a special place inside for "formed" nuggets.  There's just got to be something about them that reminds them of toys and playgrounds.

And I'm not gonna lie.  I buy bags of frozen nuggets for nights when I just don't want to cook anything from scatch.  They're easy.  And some brands are not too shabby.  Doctor them up by bathing them in a buttery hot sauce before eating or have a line of dipping sauces at hand.  They do in a pinch.

So when I made these homemade (formed) chicken nuggets, what do think the concensus was?  "It smells like McDonalds, but it tastes WAY better."  Mission accomplished.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10-30 minutes
Keywords: fry snack entree chicken American

Ingredients (~32 nuggets)
  • 1¼ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken (all white meat or mix of white & dark), cut into large chunks
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. parsley flakes
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. onion powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten w/ a splash of water
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • ground white pepper
  • oil, for frying
Place chicken, salt, parsley, oregano, black pepper, and onion powder in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until you have a fine paste. Tip out into a bowl. Set aside for the moment.

Place eggs beaten with water in a pie plate. Fill another pie plate with flour and season generously with salt and white pepper.

Pinch off small portions of the chicken paste (~1" balls) and roll into balls. Roll them around in the flour. Shake off the excess and place in the egg wash; roll to coat. Lift and let excess egg fall off. Place back in the flour and roll to coat again.

Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet tray. Lightly press each ball down to form the "nugget".

Pour about an inch and a half or two inches of oil in a deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot enough to make a few sprinkles of flour sizzle (you'll see "ripples" in the oil), you're ready to fry.

Gently lift nuggets from parchment (use a thin spatula to help if needed). Coat in flour one more time. Let excess fall back to the pan of flour between your fingers and gently lower each nugget into the oil. Do not over-fill your pan. (Do this in batches).

Let fry until golden all around and cooked through (should register 165° F on an instant-read thermometer), flipping over halfway through cooking, ~6-8 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and repeat with remaining nuggets.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

My favorite dipping sauces are Sweet Chile Sauce and Hot Honey Mustard Sauce. To make the Hot Honey Mustard, whisk together equal parts Honeycup Uniquely Sharp Mustard and Dijon Mustard and then whisk in honey to taste.

recipe adapted from Amanda's Cookin, Soup Belly, and For the Love of Food
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