I’ve never been a huge fan of fast food. The little town I grew up in didn’t even have a McDonald’s until I was 16 years old. If I am going to eat fast food, I will indulge in some french fries or a shake. One thing I will never eat is fast food chicken nuggets. The texture is yucky and gluey and they always taste ever so slightly of chemicals.
Andy and I have both recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Reading the actual details of what’s in a Chicken McNugget is enough to put even the keenest nugget lover off of nuggets for good.
So, in order to avoid eating fast food “chicken nuggets from the Black Lagoon”, but not have to do without chicken nuggets all together, Andy issued me a challenge. Create a fresh, healthy, very tasty version of a chicken nugget.
I did a good bit of research into various chicken finger / tender / nugget / strip recipes. It seems like there is no end of advice out there for those of us who would like to get off the Chicken McNugget Express. In the end I combined a few ideas, but I was mostly inspired by Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Ritzy Chicken Nuggets from her book Feast.
These were a great dinner to have mid-week because they didn’t take long to make and they were delicious and very fun to eat. I can think of lots of variations on the same recipe (add some garlic salt to the cracker crumbs, add some cayenne pepper to the yogurt marinade, sprinkle with some hot sauce whilst baking, etc), but these are just swell the way they are.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson- Feast
2 chicken breasts
1 container plain yogurt
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
Olive oil in a spray can
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the your oven to 200C or about 390F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray the foil very lightly with olive oil.
Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Add the chicken and the entire contents of the yogurt container to a bowl. Mix well and make sure the yogurt is completely covering all of the chicken. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour. It’s actually best if you can do this the morning before you want to cook these. Marinating in the yogurt tenderises the meat and makes the nuggets super moist. However, I only had time to marinate the meat for about 2 hours and the nuggets came out brilliantly.
Remove the nuggets from the fridge. Crush up the Ritz crackers. I used the food processor to do this and it worked really well, but a plastic bag and a pan could be equally effective and probably more therapeutic.
Remove the chicken from the yoghurt marinade. You want each piece of chicken to be coated in yoghurt, but not globs of it. Scrap some off if you need to so you get a nice, thin coating.
Dip each nugget into the Ritz cracker to totally coat them. Press the cracker crumbs into the chicken if you need to. Lay the nuggets in line on the baking sheet. When you’ve coated all the nuggets with the cracker crumbs, lightly spray them with olive oil and very lightly sprinkle them with salt.
Place the nuggets into the oven to cook. Let the nuggets cook for about 15 minutes before you check on them. You want the cracker crust to get nice and brown, so you may need to let them cook for a little longer. Luckily, since you’ve marinated the chicken in yogurt, it won’t dry out!
Once the chicken is cooked through and the crust is brown, remove the nuggets from the oven. Allow the nuggets to cool for a few minutes before you try to remove them from the pan. I was starving and anxious to try them, so I ended up tearing a few off the sheet before they were cool. They were still delicious, just not very pretty. Serve the nuggets with your choice of dipping sauce.