I was overwhelmed by the response to my homemade Big Macs. Seems people are quite intrigued by the notion of preparing fast food, slow…
And so, consider this a series. With part two being homemade chicken nuggets with honey mustard sauce.
Was it Morgan Spurlock who asked, “Which part of the chicken is the nugget?” Really, where is the nugget? It’s not a breast, a wing, a thigh, or any other body part we can point to or throw on a roasting rack. Mcdonald’s uses white boneless chicken to make their nuggets. But they also use tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is sprayed on the nugget to help preserve freshness. I learned that little nugget from Michael Pollan’s The Ominvore’s Dilemma. You can read the rest of the strange-sounding ingredients right on Mcdonald’s website.
When I was an awkward girl of 12, I would get home from school and slide Purdue chicken nuggets into the oven to hold me over until dinner. I can smell the chicken now as I write this. Salty and greasy, like French fries. Just what a pre-pubescent girl needed post after-school gymnastic practice.
Now when I shop for chickens I look for whole, organic chickens that were raised nearby. Following that standard, the chicken that made it into my nuggets was from Mary’s Farm in San Joaquin Valley. Mary’s chickens are fed a vegetarian diet, and are free from hormones and antibiotics.
I didn’t want to roast the chicken, because crisp skin wasn’t necessary for making nuggets. I turned to Cook’s Illusrated for a technique for cooking a super juicy bird without crisping the skin. The chicken went into a dutch oven after I browned it for a few minutes, and with no added fats besides a splash of olive oil, I baked it at a low temperature for a little over an hour. Then I de-skinned, shredded and even threw some in the food processor before battering and frying. Pulse the chicken slowly in the processor, or you’ll end up with chicken goop instead of finely chopped pieces of meat.
My first batch was all white meat, and it was good, but not great. My next batch I mixed white meat with shredded dark meat, and it was exactly the nugget I wanted. Light, feathery, full of flavor, without even the faint aroma of tertiary butylhydroquinone.
Which fast food favorites would you like to slow down? Let me know and help me choose something for part three of Fast Food Slow, coming up later in the week.
Homemade Chicken Nuggets
(makes about 30 nuggets)
4 ½ pound organic chicken
1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
Extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon baking soda
Freshly ground pepper
Fleur de sel
(Adapted Cook’s Illustrated ‘French Chicken in a Pot’)
Wash and pat your chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper inside and out. Preheat your oven to 250F and adjust your rack to the lowest position.
Heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron Dutch oven, on medium-high heat. Place chicken in the pot breast-side down and brown for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and brown for another 5 minutes (to flip the chicken, stick a wooden spoon in the cavity of the chicken).
Cover the Dutch oven with foil, and place the lid on top. Cook for 80 minutes in the oven.
Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes. Remove and discard skin. Shred chicken, keeping the white meat separate from the dark meat. Reserve juices at the bottom of the pot.
Put the white meat in a food processor with one beaten egg. Pulse a few times, but be careful not to over process the meat. It should be small, but not pureed.
Cut the dark meat into small pieces, and combine with the white meat in a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper and about ¼ cup of juices from the chicken. Add a tad more juice if chicken is too dry.
Beat together buttermilk and egg in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine baking soda, flour, 1 tablespoon paprika and a pinch of salt.
Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of chicken and roll into a ball. Cover in flour, then buttermilk, then flour again. Flatten ball with the back of a fork to form a nugget. Repeat with remaining chicken. You should have about 30 nuggets.
Heat about 1 ½ inches of peanut oil. Fry nuggets in hot oil for only about 30 seconds per side. I love frying in my Dutch oven. It prevents splatters and the heavy pot helps the oil stay hot. Don’t crowd the nuggets in the pan – they shouldn’t touch.
Season with fleur de sel and serve with honey mustard.
Combine honey with Dijon mustard at a ratio of 1:2 (1 part honey, 2 parts mustard). Stir until combined.
Where I Shopped:
Mary’s Organic Chicken: Magnani Butcher, Berkeley
Honey: Berkeley Farmers’ Market
Organic eggs: Downtown Oakland Farmers’ Market