Y'all, I think I made a serious mistake in my marriage - well, a couple actually... and I think my life will never be the same.
Until about a year or two ago - Hubster did not eat at Chick-Fil-A. He had tried it in high school, and didn't think much of it, so he just never went back.
Taking him to Chick-Fil-A for a breakfast chicken biscuit on the way somewhere one morning was my first mistake. Now, he doesn't want anything but. But, the thing is - and I'm saying this with love - Hubster is what you would call 'a big dude'.
So for what it costs to feed him at CFA, we might as well drop by a Red Lobster... He could easily put down an entire platter of minis in a single sitting.
Which brings me to my second mistake - in an effort to save money - I decided this weekend to try a knock of nugget recipe I found online (tweaking it a bit to suit my personal preferences)… it was very much a success.
Almost too much of one TBH...
You know when you're first dating, you have big arguments over big things - and you either work through them, or you break up. By the time you've been with someone for 15 years, you've worked through all the big stuff, so the biggest arguments come from the dumbest places - like when you tell your husband "stop eating the nuggets, I was planning on us having those leftovers for dinner"...
Y'all, this man was ready to divorce me for a minute because I took these nuggets away from him. Yes, that really happened. That's how good they were.
So, I'm sharing this recipe... and I'm sharing a word of warning - don't plan on having leftovers the next night.
Let's get down to actually making these morsels of mystery...
First - cut up about 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast into 1 inch cubes, and put them into a plastic bag. We're going to marinate them for about 2-4 hours (longer if you want, but it's not necessary).
The marinade itself is one of the most complicated ones I've ever made. *sarcasm*
Here it is - you ready?
1/2 whole milk (not skim, the fat in the milk makes a difference).
1/2 pickle juice - Yep, I said it. That leftover juice when you finish a jar of pickles? Save that the next time you finish a jar.
1 tbsp. salt
It's about 3/4 cup of each - milk and pickle juice.
In the plastic bag, cover the chicken about half way with milk. Top it off with pickle juice. Add salt. SEAL THE BAG, removing as much air as you can. And then slosh it around a bit. Put it in the fridge until you're ready to cook dinner.
Now about 15-25 minutes before dinner, let's put together our nugget dredging station. Dredging is the process of putting a batter onto something before you fry it.
We're going to assemble 2 large, but shallow pans on the counter. I generally use a pie plate.
As a matter of fact, pie plates are more frequently used for dredging stations in my house than they are for pies.
We also need a large frying pan - I have a few deep frying pans with vertical sides that I usually use to fry things - you can use a cast iron skillet, or a regular frying pan just as easily.
I do NOT like to use a fry daddy, or Instant-Pot, or whatever other trinket that is made just for frying and only frying - I don't like kitchen 'gadgets' that just serve one purpose and take up space in the cabinet 350 days a year. I've become more and more minimalist as I've gotten older.
In the frying pan, I use lard.
Not Crisco. Not vegetable oil. Not peanut oil (this is one of the variations - Chick-Fil-A uses refined peanut oil, I believe). Not any other refined plant based product. Good old fashioned pig fat.
Put enough lard in the pan that it's between 1/2" and 3/4" deep when it's all melted. Set the stovetop on medium to medium low - I use gas and it runs a bit hotter - if you use electric, you might need it on medium.
If your lard starts to smell like it's burning - it's too hot. That's one of the benefits of using lard - it tells you when you're temperature is too high.
If your chicken doesn't 'fry' (bubble) when you put it in the lard, it's not hot enough.
In the two pie plates - baking dishes - whatever you've chosen...
In the first - goes an egg wash - lightly beat the following items together with a fork:
2 large free range/pasture raised eggs
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup marinade from the bag of chicken
NOTE: You can add more of the marinade, but the more you put, the more your chicken will taste like pickles.
In the second - goes a seasoned flour mixture - stir the following items together with a fork until blended:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. ground mustard
1 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
And now it's time to cook some chicken.
Drain the remaining marinade from the bag. Take a handful of chicken directly from the bag, and place it into the flour mixture. (I did two handfuls at a time - that amount of chicken fit perfectly in my skillet as a 'batch'.)
Toss the chicken to coat, and immediately move chicken into the egg wash, again tossing to coat. Finally, move the chicken back into the flour, tossing to coat one final time.
(So we've coated the nuggets twice in the flour, and once in the egg wash.)
This is the chicken the second time I put it in the flour, after coating with the egg wash - note the amount of batter.
If your hand looks like this when you get through - you did it right... I had to wash my hands with every batch.
SPECIAL NOTE: One of my variations from the recipes I found online is that I like to actually have a little breading, and did everything intentionally to give me a breaded piece of chicken.
If you do not want breading (so it's more like the original 'Chick-Fil-A' recipe) - remove the chicken from the bag, and place on a plate lined with paper towels first before placing it into the flour the first time. Pat the tops of the chicken dry with additional paper towels. The drier the chicken is when you start the dredging process, the less breading you'll end up with.
You can also shake any excess flour off of your chicken between the first flour stage and egg wash stage - this will further minimize the amount of breading on your nuggets.
Once you've battered/breaded your chicken - place it into the oil.
Always PLACE it - don't toss it - unless 2nd degree burns and cleaning up grease splatter is your jam.
Note the sizzle of the chicken as you place it into the lard. If it doesn't sizzle (see the bubbles in the picture below) at all, you need to turn the heat up some. Again, if it smells like it's burning - turn it down.
Allow the chicken to cook about 2 minutes - turn it with a pair of tongs - and cook another 2 minutes. The chicken should be a nice golden brown - if it's not, just let it go a little longer - turning each piece every minute or two.
Remove the chicken with the tongs, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle a little salt on the chicken immediately after removing it from the lard.
Repeat this process until you've gone through all of the chicken. You can cook it all and serve it like a civilized person - or you can stand over the stove and eat the nuggets as they come off - that's what we did.
We never even made it to the dinner table. And honestly, we're not sorry at all.
Click on the recipe card below to open a copy you can download and print!