Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Honey-Mustard Sauce

Just one week from today, Shane and I are heading to Canada along with his parents. It’ll be my first time north of the border, and I’m pretty darn excited about it! We’ve had this trip planned for quite some time and while I wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation (as I’ve mentioned before, Shane’s doing an Ironman), it should be a lot of fun. Aside from watching the race, I don’t think we have any concrete plans (though I do hope to try poutine!) so if you have suggestions for things to see/places to eat in and around Mont Tremblant, I’d love to hear them!

Before we leave, I’m trying to avoid too many trips to the grocery store and have been working hard to pull meals together with what we have on hand. There was a ton of chicken in our freezer so that’s factored into the dinner plan on quite a few occasions. We were content to keep things simple and grill for a while, but eventually it started to get boring and we had to change things up. When I pitched these chicken nuggets to Shane he couldn’t have been more excited. I had everything I needed to make them in the pantry so it was an easy addition to the menu plan.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Honey-Mustard Sauce

I’ve done the baked chicken thing a few times in the past, but we went all out this time and fried these guys up. My fear of frying has been completely conquered, though for other reasons I still try not to do it too often. At the end of the day, sometimes it’s worth it – even the best baked chicken doesn’t compare to fried in my experience. This recipe is fairly simple: the chicken is brined, then coated in egg whites and a panko mixture before it hits the fryer. In just a few minutes, the nuggets are crisp and golden brown on the outside and super juicy inside. We served them with honey-mustard sauce, it was pure comfort food.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that you can make a ton of nuggets all at once (the recipe doubles without a problem!) and freeze the leftovers. They make for a super quick and easy future meal – all you have to do is bake them for 15 minutes. After all the horror stories I’ve heard about chicken nuggets, I’m a big fan of making them at home and knowing exactly what goes into them :)

Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Honey-Mustard Sauce
from Cook’s Country, October/November 2010

Chicken Nuggets
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or tenderloins)
2 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons onion powder
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 large egg whites
4 cups canola oil, for frying

Sauce
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup honey

Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch thick pieces – try to make them roughly the same size so they’ll cool at the same rate. In a large bowl, whisk the water, one tablespoon of the salt, and the Worcestershire sauce together. Add the chicken, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (don’t brine for longer or the chicken will get too salty).

Meanwhile, add the panko to a large resealable plastic bag, and crush with a rolling pin or heavy skillet. Transfer to a wide, shallow dish (a pie plate works well) and stir together with the flour, onion powder, pepper, garlic powder, baking soda, and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Add the egg whites to a second wide, shallow dish, and beat with a fork until foamy.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Add half of the chicken to the egg whites and toss to coat. Transfer to the panko mixture, again tossing to coat and pressing gently so the mixture adheres. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second half of the chicken pieces. (Save the leftover panko mixture.) Set the chicken aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the oil to a deep, heavy pot (a Dutch oven works well) set over medium-high heat and heat to 350 F. Preheat the oven to 200 F, and place a wire rack inside of a rimmed baking sheet.

Place the chicken pieces back in the panko mixture and toss to coat a second time. Add half of the chicken to the oil, and fry for about 3 minutes (stirring once or twice), or until the chicken is deep golden brown and cooked through. Remove to the wire rack and place the baking sheet in the oven. Let the oil heat back up to 350 F, then fry the remaining chicken. Serve with the dipping sauce.

To make the sauce: Whisk the mustard and honey together in a small bowl, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

{Note: You can make the nuggets ahead of time and freeze them. Make the recipe as written, then cool the nuggets completely. Place them in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. To reheat – place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes, flipping the nuggets halfway through the cooking time.}