Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cook like it's 1983

When I saw the Cooking Through the Decades challenges posted on America's Test Kitchen's "The Feed" website, I was stoked and thought it was a great idea - a good way to challenge myself to try different recipes.  One recipe a week proved to be a little too difficult to fit into our lives at the time.  If it was anyone but America's Test Kitchen providing the recipe, I probably could have done it, but though their recipes are always fantastic, they can often be labor intensive and time consuming.  I couldn't resist making time to try the recipe they posted for 1983 - Chicken Nuggets!  We all love them...if you don't, you're lying to yourself.

I have tried making chicken nuggets at home before, without much success.  Some pieces always end up overcooked and dry, while others are barely cooked through.  I have tried both frying and baking them, both to the same end.  These chicken nuggets were perfectly cooked, beautifully golden, crispy and delicious.

 The secrets that make this recipe successful were like little "A-Ha" moments one right after the other.  The first secret starts with cutting the chicken.  It is cut diagonally into thirds on the bias, then the largest piece is sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces.  The two smaller pieces are then cut with the knife almost parallel to the cutting board into 1/2-inch thick pieces (kind of like how you would slice a flank steak to get a nice thin piece of tender meat).  The resulting pieces are perfectly shaped, evenly-sized nuggets.  "A-Ha!"  The nuggets are then brined for a short period of time, which keeps them moist through the cooking process.  "A-Ha!"  The brined chicken pieces are then coated in a mixture of flour and panko breadcrumbs with some seasonings.  But here comes the final "A-Ha!" moment - after coating all of the chicken once, the pieces sit for a few minutes and then get a second coating.  That's when the nuggets pick up all the little clumpy bits in the flour mixture, which results in crunchy little treasures clinging to every nugget once they're fried up.

After whipping up a little honey mustard dipping sauce (equal parts of honey and dijon mustard - really tough recipe), we devoured these nuggets.  They weren't just good, they were addictive. 

If you want to throw on your bangle bracelets, leg warmers and hypercolor t-shirt and transport yourself back to the 80s with this Chicken Nugget recipe, you won't be disappointed.  If you can't access the recipe, post a comment or send an e-mail to, and I'll send you a copy.

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