Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade Chicken Strips or Nuggets

 This recipe is a starting point for making your own homemade chicken strips or nuggets. Mix and match spices and cracker types to suit your family's tastes and budget. You can use powdered Ranch Dressing instead of the spices. You can make it "taco" by adding in taco seasonings instead of the thyme, basil and marjoram. You can used an Italian seasoning instead of my spices. Or try using BBQ, fajitas,  or jerk chicken spices. Try some dry teriyaki or Chinese 5 spice seasonings for an oriental flavor. You want to use about 2 - 2.5 Tbs of total spices for this amount of crackers.

*4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves

**1 16-oz box Ritz crackers (4 sleeves), crushed into crumbs Or any type crumbs you want to use.

1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

***1/2 - 1 cup cup olive oil (or can use buttermilk, milk, eggs or eggs and milk)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Spray a cookie sheet (really, I used a jelly roll pan - it has the edges on it.) with cooking spray and set aside.

In a gallon zip-top bag, mix together everything except the chicken and the oil (or it's substitutes) and shake it up so that the spices are distributed.

Cut chicken up into about 4 strips each or cut into nuggets. You can just quarter the breast pieces for large nuggets; cut the breasts into strips and leave half long and half short; or cut the strips into 1"-2" pieces for regular-sized nuggets.

Dip the chicken strips/nuggets about 4 pieces at a time for strips and about 10 pieces at a time for nuggets, into the oil (or it's substitute), turning to coat. When all those pieces are coated, pick each one up and let a little of the liquid drip off. When all of those pieces are in the zip bag and holding it closed, shake the bag until the pieces are coated. The chicken will slide down into the crumb mix, so you will have to dig for them. That's why having a head count makes life easier. You know if you've left one behind! Place each piece on the prepared pan. I crowded mine together so I could get them all on one pan, but you can separate them more and use two pans.

Bake at 375 deg. for about 20 minutes for strips, about 15 minutes for nuggets. (ovens vary a bit, so check on them a couple of minutes before the time is up) About 1/2 way into the cooking time, turn them over and slightly reposition them a little more apart (they will have plumped up some, so they're not taking up as much room. Finish baking them. I always look for and cut into the thickest piece that I can find to make sure it's done. If it's done, then the rest of them are done. (It won't look pink and the juices are clear when it's done.) If it's not done, then cook for another couple of minutes and check another piece.

Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce: ketchup, mustard, ranch, bbq, teriyaki, hot sauce, Sriracha, peanut sauce, you name it. Or eat them plain.

Serve with a side of rice and a salad. I made some pressure cooker chicken and brown rice (I went REALLY light on the chicken in it - I used the chicken for the strips instead.)

* I used boneless skinless because I found some organically grown on sale for .99 cents a pound. Couldn't pass that one up. Normally, I'd just debone and skin some chicken and use whatever I had. The meat doesn't have to be breast meat.

** I used Ritz crackers because I had a box that I had bought for my son some months ago. He's moved out. I tried to eat them, but they were just TOO salty for my tastes (I used to like them?? what the heck?). Anyway, I didn't want to throw them away. They worked really well in this recipe.

***About the oil. I thought it would crisp up the chicken coating more. It really didn't and made the strips a little greasy. Next time I'll go back to my normal buttermilk or milk and egg to moisten the chicken. I'll probably also flour the chicken first, then dip in the liquid and then dip in the crumbs. I think more will stick onto the chicken that way and make it crispier. The flavor was good, just a bit greasy. But then, I don't normally eat fried foods, I bake my foods - even French fries.

I've never frozen this recipe, but it should freeze well. I'd reheat the frozen strips/nuggets at about 400- 425 deg (F) for about 15-20 minutes.

This made a LOT of coating. Enough that I'm going to put the rest in the freezer for another time. You can either cut the coating portion of the recipe in half or just freeze it in the zip bag like I'm going to do.

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