I have a confession. I don't do preformed chicken. You know the kind, ground up meat "rib meat and other ingredients added" shaped into a patty or nugget. Anywhere, anytime. So me not buying preformed meat chicken nuggets is really less about mom's prejudice than it is about mom's pickiness. A couple of years ago I got a wild hair to try making some homemade chicken nuggets but didn't want to do breading. This time I wanted to try a batter. In fact, now I remember that I was actually auditioning beer batters for some fish and chips.
In my 'net sleuthing I stumbled across this batter recipe from a Culinary Institute of America cookbook, "The New Professional Chef." It's not fancy, just a well seasoned batter that doesn't produce greasy nuggets and the bonus - reheats in the oven beautifully crisp. Last week, after a full day with the kids I found myself staring at some chicken that needed to be used and done fast. So I made up some nuggets.
If I'm going to bother with making these, I usually make a ton because the leftovers flash freeze on a cookie sheet very well. Then, when you want to have nuggets a second time just place them on a sheet pan and throw them in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.
adapted from The New Professional Chef
5-6 (approximately 2lbs) boneless, skinless chicken breast - chopped into 2" chunks
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces of beer
dipping sauce of choice
As far as I'm concerned this is the sauce to serve with homemade nuggets. While the chicken is flavorful I'm a sauce girl but not plain sauces. I'm usually mixing up some sort of secret sauce for fries or burgers any day of the week and the children have come to expect that momma surprise them with a condiment for dipping. I can't take credit for this combination but I lurrrrve it. Just scoop about 1/2 cup of peach jam into a bowl. This time I was out of jam but a friend had gifted me some peach butter. Just a little less sweet but with much more fruit so I tweaked it to work. Then add a tablespoon or so of the snooty dijon mustard and several shakes of hot sauce.
Mix. Done. Since I was using a chunky peach butter I hit the sauce with my immersion blender but if you use peach jam, this step isn't necessary. Have I mentioned it's amazing? Sweet peaches, the tang of the mustard and the burn of the hot sauce. It hits your tongue in all the right spots.
So the sauce is made. On to the easiest batter you've ever made. Dump the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and black pepper into a bowl. Mix it up. Since the batter is so easy to get together, be sure to have your chicken ready and the oil preheating before you add the beer. The oil should be on medium high (about 375 degrees) and be at least three inches deep.
Chicken all ready to get dressed.
About the beer. Like I've said in previous posts, I grew up around social drinking but never developed a taste for alcohol - until I started cooking more often. I don't drink the stuff but I keep at least a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white, my vodka/vanilla mash and beer. My beer is purely for making this batter and making chili. Seriously, good chili needs beer but I won't get into that rant today. I also won't be as foolish as to educate you on brands of alcohol. Just pick something that tastes good to you. My scientific method involves quieting the pack of kids while I find something mid-priced and chuck it in the cart.
Once the oil is almost hot, add the beer to the dry ingredients and mix well.
This is how I set up my frying station. I'm kind of a food safety nut and since at any moment a child could need me, I use tongs to dip the chicken which keeps my hands clean. On one side the chicken, then the batter bowl closest to the pot. My absolutely pristine, fry pot. I'm sure that my mom is reading this and wanting to take a scour pad to the outside of the pad. In fact, she usually does every time she visits.
On the other side of the fry pot is the receiving area. A large plate with some paper towels to drain the cooked chicken. Most times I chuck this plate into the oven set to 200 degrees so the chicken stays warm and crisp as I fry the subsequent batches.
Again, I had to pick - hot oil, hands on work with raw chicken, kids and camera. Camera couldn't come along for the fry. Just imagine I'm chucking several pieces of chicken into the batter a bowl. Then I lift each chunk quickly into the hot oil. Yes, it will drip a bit, but that's why we put the batter bowl closest to the oil. Add 6-8 pieces of chicken at a time and fry for about 3 minutes or until a deep golden brown and cooked through. Remember, when frying more is not better. You want the chicken cooked through but when food is overcooked in a deep fry the moisture evaporates from the food and nothing is left to keep the oil out. Simple terms - greasy food. If you fry them for only three minutes at a good medium high heat you'll have juicy but not greasy chicken.
Since this was a last minute patchwork meal for us I rifled in my freezer to pull some corn on the cob and fries to be done after the chicken. Serve with the peach jam dipping sauce and you'll be licking your fingers clean.