This past weekend, I decided to stay in with Joe and avoid the NYFW madness (and the maddening humidity) and watch our alma mater play a little football. A big game deserves delicious, tailgate inspired snacks, and I had an idea to make some oven fried chicken using a few chicken thighs we had on hand. Then, I realized something dippable — and in nugget form — would be infinitely less complicated to make, and a lot more fun to eat!
When is the last time you had chicken nuggets? I’ll admit, I can be a bit of a snob about these types of things (read: probably wouldn’t order from a fast food chain), so it’s been a while for me. I didn’t want to go through the process of deep frying, so I looked around a bit for recipe inspiration. Enter this technique from (who else?) Martha Stewart: you toast the crunchy panko breadcrumbs before you adhere them to the chicken, which ensures a super crisp crust. And, these babies bake in mere minutes. You can serve ’em up with a basic bowl of ketchup, or get fancy and make your own dipping sauces. We were in the mood for spicy, Asian inspired flavors, so I whipped up a sweet and spicy honey chili sauce, with lots of garlic and cilantro. It was delish!
If you’re planning on hosting any game day parties, or just want a quick snack for you or any little ones, give this one a try. Super simple to make, and so much lighter than the deep fried fast food version! Here’s what you do:
Baked Chicken Nuggets
Adapted from Martha Stewart
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound total)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1.5 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 extra large eggs
Cooking spray (optional)
— Kosher or sea salt
— garlic powder
— cayenne powder
— freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 400°. Spread the panko on a rimmed baking sheet, and season with salt. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the crumbs are a rich golden brown. Remove the baking dish from the oven, and carefully pour the toasted crumbs into a shallow bowl, pie plate, or serving dish. Toss with the olive oil until it’s well distributed (use as much as you need to lightly moisten the crumbs), then set aside.
In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs and season well with salt, pepper, and (optional) garlic and cayenne powder. In another shallow bowl or plate, dump the flour out and season with the salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne. Gather the panko, the egg, and the flour in a little assembly line for dredging. You’ll also want to place a mesh wire rack on a baking sheet, and if you’re worried the meat will stick, lightly spray it with cooking spray. Finally, cut the chicken into large two-inch cubes. Now, we’re ready to bread!
Dip a piece of chicken into the flour, dusting it on all sides. Then, dip it into the egg, until it’s well coated. Finally, dredge the chicken in the panko, patting the breadcrumbs so they cover the meat and adhere. Set the nugget on the wire rack. Repeat with each piece of chicken, then bake the entire batch for 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven, and season again with a little salt, then serve immediately.
Dipping Sauce ideas: Ranch dressing, ketchup (make it spicy with a little sriracha!), sweet honey chili dipping sauce, a little mayo with lemon and parmesan mixed in, buffalo sauce, barbecue sauce
Breading variations: Add 1/3 cup grated parmesan to the toasted panko crumbs; add in your favorite dried herbs or zesty seasonings like chipotle powder.
Recipe hacks: I’ll be honest, I didn’t use a wire rack to bake these, because I don’t own one. Instead, I stacked an aluminum pizza pan — the kind with little holes in the bottom — on top of a baking sheet to encourage air flow under the chicken. I also didn’t spray the pan with cooking oil, and I had no issues with the nuggets sticking.
Cheers and enjoy!!