MICKY-WHO? BETTER HOMEMADE CHICKEN NUGGETS
FOR YOU. IF THIS IS NOT LOVE…”
Oh you thought I was kidding about the what-my-ailing-dog-wouldn’t-eat-but-you-might series?
Uhem, no sir, no ma’am… I was dead serious. You see, the following story is either gonna provide clarity or forever put you off from reading another word in this post, but I’m gonna say it anyways. In the past weeks of my bumpy journey on coming up with nourishments that my heartbroken dog-son might be willing to sniff or perhaps take a bite, I found myself embarrassingly wanting… salivating really… over these supposedly “dog foods” that I kept for him in a tupperware… And for awhile it took some considerable amount of trembling self-respect not to, until finally I decided silly was just silly. That I shall eat them myself.
No, again, I’m not kidding.
Let’s deactivate the obvious alarm at this point, that yes, we’re looking at some strikingly beautiful but nonetheless canine-inappropriate nuggets here, so am I suggesting that I awfully fed my ill-hearted Dumpling (that’s his name), against all common sense and condemnations… chicken nuggets? Yes. Yes, I have. BUT! If I may, even if only for my own peace-making, that it was an extraordinary measure taken during an emergency-time in his otherwise healthily dieted life. Three weeks ago which was about five days into his stubborn anorexia-crisis, between him dying healthily or living dangerously, it became desperately obvious that we had to pull out, the big guns.
So yes, we gave him McDonald’s.
McNuggets to be exact, outer batters removed, and it was the first thing in five days that he took more than a lick from. I think McNuggets pulled the Dumpling out of the boiling water… Or only as an inspiration at least, because the next day I started baking a healthier, salt-less version of chicken nuggets for him. I minced skin-on chicken thighs and breasts, and baked them in mini muffin-cups until slightly browned.
McDumpling flipped. OK so did I.
Yes, yes I took a bite of “his food” because you know… well… parents should taste the foods they make for their children no?! And also, yeah just maybe, because those nuggets looked so juicy and moist, and smelled so enticing that they talked to me a little bit but you know, it was mainly the first reason. But what I didn’t expect was the second I took my first bite of the homemade nuggets even without salt… I was like, Micky-the-fuck-Who?!
Holy Moly, these nuggets were goooood!!! I mean the skin that were originally kept as some extra “energy boost” did accidental miracle, not only providing flavours but turning these into the juiciest and most chicken fat-laden nuggets I’ve ever tasted! I didn’t call them… they called meh! And so it was, at last… the rising of the curtain… the dawn of my doom… the train that carries a full-blown, borderline-evil and plain-sick post on homemade chicken nuggets has officially left the station.
It was too late to stop.
After a couple weeks of testing and tweaking out a perfect, legit homemade nuggets recipe for you, there are a few self-discoveries made along the way:
- I am a hard-wired nugget-purist. There has been a little less-is-more fairy inside me, resisting all noises about adding cheese… or jalapeño… or whatever impurity that was suggested by someone until it became loud and clear that I believe, chicken nuggets should just be, purely chicken nuggets.
- What goes on top of them however, is an entirely different matter. On top of tossing them in crushed garlic, and in between ideas of some kind of fondue-cheese-dip and herby-mustard-thingy, I landed on a politically incorrect black truffle-mayonnaise that doesn’t need your approval. Hey, it pleased French fries. No reasons why it’ll discriminate here.
- But if you think that chicken nuggets can do without its soulmate, the one true love bound by destiny itself, you should get out of here right now. The Sweet And Sour Sauce, made hot today just because it’s almost valentine’s day (I didn’t even think it was gonna be successful and took zero photos during making but… holy shit).
- Last but not least, despite all contradictions and cynicism, I am after all, a humanitarian. In the effort to churn out the best, perfect-really chicken nuggets recipe for you, we have ingested 120 nuggets in total, 180 in fact if you want to take into account that these nuggets are 1.5 times bigger, in the span of just a few days. I supernova-sized myself for the greater public. If that’s not big love, polar bears will die off from the surface of earth.
Now, do you really need reasons not to just order from McDonald’s? No, no it’s not because McDonald adds creepy industrial stuff to their foods which I have zero problem with. But because, on top of perhaps-yours peace of mind, MyNuggets are better.
Not possible? You’re wrong.
Makes: approx 60 nuggests
The pre-battered nuggets keep perfectly in the freezer for whenever hunger strikes, and the batter whips up in no time. Could be, or not be… a good thing.
The freezing before processing the chicken is super important. The nuggets is extra juicy and flavourful because of the minced skin, but the skin will never be “minced” properly in the food-processor without proper freezing. By proper freezing, I mean borderline frozen, not rock-hard frozen. If you are flash-freezing the chicken right before the processing, cut them into chunks (so they freeze faster) and flash-freeze for 2 hours until the skins are hard. If you are using already frozen chicken (which is rock-hard), leave them at room-temperature for 1:30 ~ 2 hrs to thaw. You should be able to, with much applied force, cut through them with a knife. It’s always better to over-freeze than under-freeze.
Jason is forcing me to stress this part which I believe nobody wants to hear, but he does have a point. If you don’t mind a few minutes of extra work, double/re-frying the nuggets at high-heat for about 30 seconds does make a difference (why do you think McD does it?). Yeah, just like French fries. It draws even more moistures away from the batter, making them crispier, and stay crispier for longer. Just for the record, I’m perfectly happy with the fried-once-only nuggets that are already golden browned and crispy. But if you need these nuggets to stay alive for hours, re-frying is a good option.
Do not keep the nuggets in the oven to stay warm. It will kill them sogging-ly. Ain’t nothing wrong with cold but crispy nuggets.
The general rule of thumb for the batter is, the ratio between the wet ingredient (egg yolk + iced water) and dry ingredients (flour + tapioca starch) is 1:1, by volume. This is a universal tempura-batter if you want to apply it to something else (green beans, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, etc). And that the batter should be kept iced-cold, which is convenient if you’re frying frozen nuggets.
- The nuggets:
- 28.2 oz (800 grams, about 4) of SKIN-ON chicken thighs, cut into chunks
- 10.5 oz (300 grams, about 1/2 a pair) of skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
- 2 tsp of cornstarch
- 1 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- The batter (enough for 30 nuggets but you can keep left-over in the fridge for a couple days):
- 1 large (15 grams) egg yolk
- 1 cup (237 grams) of ICED water
- 3/4 cup (96 grams) of all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (30 grams) of tapioca starch
- 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of baking soda
- To finish (for every 15 nuggets):
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper
- Chili flake to sprinkle (optional)
To form the nuggets: (See notes above about freezing the chicken) Spread the skin-on chicken thighs and chicken breast on a sheet in one single layer, and flash-freeze for 2 hours until the skins have completely harden. In a food-processor, add the chicken, cornstarch, salt and ground black pepper. Pulse until all the chickens are evenly cut into finely minced pieces (think beef tartar), but not fully “ground” into a paste. This is quite important as it retains the texture of the chicken, otherwise the nuggets will resemble meatballs or sausages. The skins should be evenly cut into the meat if they were properly frozen.
Evenly whisk together all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper in a shallow bowl. Prepare a couple of baking-sheets that are lightly dusted with flour.
Take about 1 tbsp of the chicken-mixture, form it into a firm/tightly packed ball (if it’s sticking too much on your hands, wet your hands with a little water), then roll it in the flour then gently press it down (keeping it inside the bowl of flour) into a chubby disk (well, like a nugget). It helps to maintain a “wet hand (chicken hand)” and “dry hand (flour hand)” system. The nugget should be thinly and evenly coated with the flour-mixture on all sides. Place it on the baking-sheets and repeat until you’re done with all the chickens. You should have about 60 nuggets depending on size. Flash-freeze the nuggets on the baking-sheets for 2 hours until completely hardened. Then transfer to an air-tight bag/container, and keep frozen until needed.
To batter and fry: Take however many nuggets you’re frying out of the freezer, set aside (doesn’t really need to thaw). Whisk together all-purpose flour, tapioca starch, black pepper, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Add the egg yolk into another large measuring-cup, then add enough iced water until it reaches 1 cup in total. Whisk until even, then pour it over the flour-mixture while gently mixing in with chopsticks or a fork. Do not over-mix the batter. It’s perfectly fine if there are small lumps of flour here and there. Add a few pieces of frozen nuggets in the batter to keep it cold (careful not to let them stick together).
Add enough vegetable oil in a frying-pot until it reaches about 2″ deep (I’m using a small, narrow pot so I didn’t need that much). Heat the oil over medium-high heat until when a wooden chopstick is inserted in the middle, small bubbles form immediately around the chopstick. Drop however many battered nuggets (let extra batter drain off for a few seconds before frying) into the oil without crowding the pot (the batter may break off into tiny pieces once it hits the oil. it’s ok. it should). Lower the heat down to medium and fry until golden on all sides and increase to high heat for the last 20 seconds (you have to control the heat so that the batter isn’t over-browned while the chicken is still raw). Drain the nuggets over a cooling-rack (see notes above about double/re-frying). Remove small pieces of batter from the oil with a slotted spoon in between each batch.
Toss the nuggets with minced garlic, ground black pepper and ground white pepper. Serve with some sprinkled chili flakes, and… the sauce:
- Hot, sweet and sour sauce:
- 3/4 cup (200 grams) of pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) of apple juice
- 1 1/2 tbsp (25 grams) of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tbsp (20 grams) of tabasco sauce
- 5 tbsp (62 grams) of granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp (15 grams) of dark brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp (small pinch) of salt
- 3 tsp (8 grams) of cornstarch
- Truffle and Parmigiano mayonnaise:
- 5 tbsp (95 grams) of plain mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup (10 grams) of grated Parmigiano cheese
- 2 tsp (9 grams) of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp (10 grams) of truffle paste, or truffle oil
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
To make the hot, sweet and sour sauce: Combine pineapple juice, apple juice, lemon juice, tabasco sauce, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar and salt in a sauce pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and reduce the mixture down by 2/3. Take about 4 tbsp of the mixture out of the sauce pot and let it cool slightly, then whisk in the cornstarch until completely smooth and lump-free. Add it back into the sauce pot and cook over medium heat, until the mixture has fully thickened and goes from opaque to completely translucent (meaning the cornstarch is thoroughly cooked). Set aside until needed.
To make the truffle and Parmigiano mayonnaise: Combine all the ingredients together until even. Set aside until needed.
Bob BeckFebruary 7, 2014 at 10:21 PM
Looks great! Have you tried subbing cold vodka for half the iced water part of the batter? I use this technique for all my tempuras, fried fish, etc. to get an ultra crisp coating. Awesome post.
Mandy L.February 7, 2014 at 11:27 PM
Bob, no I have not tried that, but now I certainly will!!! Great tip!
BrianneFebruary 7, 2014 at 11:36 PM
Dang, girl! I’m happy to hear that Dumpling is eating again. And I’m ecstatic that this recipe came out of your efforts to feed him! These are insane.
QuyenFebruary 8, 2014 at 1:17 AM
Yum! That dipping sauce looks amazing. I’ve also tried a similar recipe, but it is baked instead of fried. Although it is not as good, it turned out okay!
cheriFebruary 9, 2014 at 3:57 AM
Great looking pics, love the sauces!
Sarah @ The Woks of LifeFebruary 9, 2014 at 8:50 PM
Oh my goodness, we may have to break out the food processor and make this soon!
zapFebruary 11, 2014 at 12:13 AM
I never really bothered mincing the chicken when making nuggets, but you have me convinced!
JenniferFebruary 14, 2014 at 10:24 PM
So much good stuff going on here, not least of which is the part about your dog eating again. Thanks for sharing your nugget innovations!
ErikaFebruary 15, 2014 at 12:48 AM
I can’t believe you’re luring me away from my perfectly satisfying pescatarian lifestyle with THESE. But then again, I can because I apparently have really low-brow taste–the only things I really missed after cutting out meat were burgers, dumplings and…McD’s chicken nuggets. Just so freaking good. I still have an urge sometimes to pop em like candy. I never thought they could be as good made at home, but these moody, crispy, oily, battered nuggets have changed my worldview forever! I’m so glad you got Dumpling to get sustenance into him–poor kid. If I were a dog, I would most definitely request you for an owner. Happy nugget eating!
YachindaJuly 31, 2014 at 6:24 AM
Thanks for the recipe! Our family love it. Even my picky 2 yrs old son gobbled the nuggets :). It definitely tasted better than McNuggets! I used organic chicken and fried them in coconut oil to make it healthier. Thanks again :)
HCSeptember 10, 2014 at 9:38 AM
To what temperature do you heat the oil (for those of us lacking chopsticks and your know-how)? And for how long do you fry the nuggets?
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 10, 2014 at 1:01 PM
HC, around 330F to 350F should do it. Or you could drop a little batter into the oil, if it bubbles and floats up immediately, the oil’s hot. I didn’t time the frying specifically. I usually judge it by the color of the batter. When the batter reaches a golden-brown color, it’s ready, which I’d say takes about 2~3 minutes But if your nuggets start to brown within a minute, that means the oil’s too hot and you should lower the heat. Hope this helps.
HCSeptember 10, 2014 at 10:56 PM
Thank you, Mandy! It’s a big help.
AnnieDecember 10, 2015 at 2:22 AM
I had to try this the moment I saw this! This is the BEST THING EVER! Now I’ll never be able to have just any chicken nuggets! Thanks for this amazing recipe!!!!!!
AbbyDecember 12, 2016 at 2:23 AM
O M G so juicy! You are a genius!