Chicken Nuggets and Fries

Ok, I’ve been putting off this challenge way too long. First, I put off making it — illness and holidays got in the way — and then I put off writing about it.

To tell you the truth, a meal of homemade chicken nuggets and fries was not one I was looking forward to making. I think of this as typical restaurant kid’s food, not a meal I would likely order for myself. I don’t even like to order it for my kid, although sometimes choices are limited. Since this isn’t a meal I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat, I didn’t think it was one I would enjoy making either. But I was challenged to make it, and I did.

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Homemade chicken nuggets.

I don’t ever deep-fry at home. My rationale is that deep-frying is unhealthy, messy and expensive when you consider how much oil is required. And it’s very easy (all too easy) to find good-tasting deep-fried foods when we go out to eat. It just doesn’t fit into what I consider good home cooking.

So I didn’t want to deep-fry either the nuggets or the “fries.” For the nuggets, after researching many different recipes, I decided to take a combination approach. I shallow-fried them for a few minutes to get the breading crispy, then transferred them to the oven to finish cooking.

Based on the recipes I read, it seemed that the best results came from soaking the chicken first in buttermilk, then rolling it in a hearty coating (heartier than flour), such as cracker or bread crumbs. I chose panko bread crumbs, which I spiced up quite a bit with paprika, cayenne and salt. I cut boneless chicken breasts into approximate nugget size before letting them soak in the buttermilk for a few hours. Then I rolled them in the coating and shallow-fried them in vegetable oil just until the coating browned. I transferred them to a baking sheet to finish cooking at about 425 degrees.

The nuggets were crispy, but certainly not as crispy or as yummy as their deep-fried counterparts would be. (I said I don’t like to deep-fry at home, but there’s no denying that deep-fried foods taste very good.) The breading had a tendency to slide off, too. I think the extra spices were essential. Otherwise, the dish would have been rather bland.

I added two dipping sauces to help with the blandness factor. One was a simple honey-mustard sauce: two parts mustard whisked with one part honey. The other was lemon juice whisked with a little olive oil, Italian seasonings and plenty of grated Parmesan. I actually liked the second sauce better with the crudites (raw broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes and celery) that I served with the chicken, but my husband preferred it on the nuggets.

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Two kinds of oven fries.

Now for the fries. I decided to try “oven-frying” them two different ways. I cooked both batches for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

For one set of fries, I used peeled Yukon gold potatoes. I cut them into wedge shapes and sprinkled them with a little oil, salt and some sugar. This was based on a recipe I found online, and I think the intention was to mimic the look of French fries. The potatoes did turn spotty brown where the sugar caramelized, but they didn’t taste at all fried; they tasted sweet. My husband liked them, but I didn’t.

For the other batch of oven fries, I used unpeeled russet potatoes. I tossed them with a bit more oil, coarse salt, paprika and cayenne. Again, these didn’t taste fried, although they more closely resembled the thick-cut steak fries that you find at some up-scale restaurants. I liked them a lot better, though.

For me, this meal rated about a C. I doubt I would make it again unless it was requested, although I would make the oven fries to serve with other dishes. My husband rated it a B+/A-. He was disappointed that I didn’t make more dipping sauces, particularly a barbecue sauce. My toddler declined to eat any of it at all. I guess it’s not real chicken nuggets and fries when your mom makes it.

I haven’t received this week’s challenge yet, so stay tuned. Also, now that the recent spate of holidays has passed, I promise to get back on a weekly cooking and posting schedule, at least for a while.

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4 thoughts on “Chicken Nuggets and Fries

  1. […] What I’m cooking this week (actually 2 weeks ago, but who’s counting?): Chicken Nuggets and Fries | Simply Cooking. […]

  2. Erika 11 May 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I agree with you; I’m not a fan of fried chicken nuggets either. They always gross me out a little when my toddler requests them at a restaurant. And I know those restaurant ones are horrible for you. At least yours look to be a little better! But honestly I probably won’t try unless requested by the kids…

    As for french fries, I don’t think I’d ever be able to mimic the taste of fast food fries at home. But I do make some mean roasted potatoes that my daughter compares to fries. Normally I cube redskin potatoes (with skin), but I should try making them more of a french fry shape. I just toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. The secret to crispy edges is to put the empty baking sheet in the oven as it is preheating (to 425F), then pour the potatoes on the hot pan. I cook approximately 30 min without touching the potoatoes. They come out crispy and browned and delicious. A great, easy side I make pretty regularly!

  3. Shannon 12 May 2011 at 8:31 am

    Erika- I’ll have to try your method next time!

  4. […] crumbs. They are shallow-fried until crisp. These cutlets were just great, much better than the Chicken Nuggets I made a while back. I liked the springtime salad they were served with, and I thought the […]

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