Every time I go to my local COSTCO I check the freezer section for nuggets. The variety increases regularly, but there’s still nothing there at makes me think, Ah, healthy. Don’t get me wrong, chicken breast pulp which has been squashed into the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head then breaded and deep-fried is fantastic in a pinch – and has definitely be enthusiastically consumed under my roof with quantities of decidedly un-organic ketchup. But as a regular thing, I like to know from whence my children’s meat is coming.
These are so easy to make! Just buy what you need, whip up a big batch on a Saturday afternoon, freeze, and save. When you want to eat them, just pop in the microwave for a minute or so, and voila! I serve these chicken nuggets once a week, whatever my busiest (or laziest) at-home day is. It makes my older kids happy because they feel like they’re getting a “real school” lunch (we homeschool), and it makes my younger kids happy because: CHICKEN NUGGETS!!! Ketchup is a must and, if I’m feeling particularly virtuous, a side of amply buttered corn + green beans.
Make-Ahead Chicken Nuggets
the Humble Baker @bakinghumblepie.com
These really are so easy to make. It’s not deep frying, so don’t be intimidated. If you can sauté, you can make these. They’re super-quick to reheat and serve when your kids are clamoring for something hot! Now! Coconut oil is key. It’s really not just a health-nut gimmick. You know how movie theater popcorn always tastes better than the stuff you make at home in the microwave? Coconut oil, my friends. It is the secret to the tastiest savory pan-fried foods you will ever eat. Don’t skip the brining, either. Thigh meat is going to be juicier than breasts, but brining puts these nuggets over the top.
3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 1-2″ nuggets
2 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
6 whites (save the yolks for some Nutella gelato or raspberry ice cream!)
1 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
4 cups dry bread crumbs (panko, Italian, whole wheat, plain)
1 1/2 cups coconut oil
Submerge the chicken nugget meat in a quart of water, with the salt. Allow to brine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, Combine the flour, onion powder, granulated garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper in a shallow dish. Beat the egg whites in a second shallow dish just to combine. Add the breadcrumbs to a third shallow dish.
Remove chicken from brine, pat dry with paper towels; discard brine. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy-bottom skillet over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering.
Working in batches: dip the chicken in the flour mixture then the egg mixture, allowing to drip back into pan, then dredge chicken in breadcrumbs. Pan fry chicken on one side until golden brown (about 3 minutes), then flip and cook until golden brown on the other side. Remove to wire rack, placed in baking sheet, to cool. Repeat until you have used all the chicken.
As soon as the nuggets are cool, about 30 minutes, place them in freezer zip-top bags and seal, squishing most of the air out before sealing. Freeze for up to a month. Do not thaw before reheating. Place on microwave-safe plate and reheat on high in microwave for 1-2 minutes, checking at 1 minute and every thirty seconds after that for desired temperature. Serve hot. With ketchup.