It is very clear that despite their shared genetics, my children do not share the same taste for food. This has become very frustrating as I’ve tried multiple times to create a healthy version of chicken nuggets. Ideally, I would just cut up little chicken strips, bread them in some whole grain bread crumbs and bake them. I would like these and they’d be healthy. But no… the youngest one doesn’t like the texture of real chicken (or real meat of any type – it all has to be the mushed up or ground variety). The middle boy is super picky about not having too much “cook” (my boys’ word for brown food or carmelization) and is also super neurotic about the shape of foods. The oldest one is my easiest one to please, but he doesn’t like baked and breaded foods. To him, the baked breading isn’t crunchy enough compared to the fried variety.
After several attempts, I am happy to report that I have managed to satisfy all three of them though! For these chicken nuggets, I used boneless skinless chicken breasts that I pulsed in the food processor until they were just shy of mush (still a little texture, but a bit like ground chicken). To overcome the shape obstacle, I used a cookie cutter so they’re all exactly the same shape. For the breading, I compromised and fried them. These don’t fit into my diet as well, but as active kids, they can use the fat.
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I made breadcrumbs in the food processor with left over heals)
oil for frying
Pulse chicken in food processor until it resembles ground meat. Should have a little texture left, but be pretty mushy. Add between 1/4 and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs until you get a mixture that holds together enough to be able to make very loose balls.
Place a 2″ round cookie cutter on a baking sheet and fill the cutter with about 1/2″ chicken mixture. Press chicken down to shape into little disk. Remove cutter. Place the cutter next to this little disk and repeat until your chicken is gone (will probably require at least 2 baking sheets).
Once you have the chicken all formed into nice little circles, place the sheets into the freezer for 15-20 minutes. You want them to be just cold enough so they will hold their shape, but they should still be sticky so the breadcrumbs will stick.
Mix remaining breadcrumbs with a little salt and pepper. You can also use other spices at this point depending on your family’s tastes. Some cayenne, onion salt and poultry seasoning would be very tasty if your family doesn’t require bland food.
Heat 1/2 inch oil in large pan to between 325 and 375. I use a cast iron dutch oven as it keeps the oil at a nice even temperature. Dip each of your little chicken disks into the seasoned bread crumbs and fry for about 3 minutes per side or until they are a nice golden brown. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp reaches at least 160. If they are getting brown too soon, turn your oil down. You can also place on a rack in the oven after frying to make sure they get cooked all the way through.
This recipe makes a lot of chicken nuggets. I freeze the leftovers to easily reheat later. Before placing them in a plastic bag, place the cooked nuggets on a clean baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour. This keeps them from sticking together. When you want to reheat them, bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. You can also microwave them, but they are a lot tastier heated up in the oven.