Wonderful News! Chicken, Fish, Beef and Pork all qualify to be a Nugget. By definition, nuggets are any meat product that has been cut into pieces or shaped, breaded or battered, then deep fried or baked. The definition gives you all the inspiration and creative prowess you need to design and cook some wonderful, tasty nuggets of love! You can add whatever spices or herbs desired to whip up a wonderful finger food style dinner or snack platter. The obvious hurdles would only include the trip to the grocery store and the cookware needed to pull off such an edible masterpiece of culinary expertise.
Chicken Nuggets have been around for as long as most of us can remember (1950 to be exact). Fast food restaurants have taken the recipe, ran with it and added dipping sauces to boot. They are seasoned and fried and usually come with a plastic toy of some sort. These bundles of warm tender goodness are sometimes shaped into your favorite dinosaur, cartoon character or just plain chunked up. The basic homemade recipe for Chicken Nuggets is simple, with a flour base, an egg bath and a breadcrumb coating before the deep fryer dive. They are tasty hit with anyone from 2 to 100. Try some herb blends of rosemary, thyme or paprika to your flour and then bake some and fry the rest. You could also go with a KFC recipe for your nuggets. Serve with sauces like Sweet and Sour, BBQ, Honey Mustard or Ranch.
Although chicken seems to be the preferred meat in any nugget argument, Catfish Nuggets will warm your belly and soothe your southern soul. These bad boys of the deep are usually dredged in cornmeal and buttermilk to mask the fishiness of catfish. After all, catfish are bottom feeders. Their diets are not the best when it comes to farming conditions, but the meat is tender and the crunch of the deep fried cornmeal is a wonderful surprise. Try a different approach and season the cornmeal with Creole seasoning or Onion Powder for a twist. They can be served with a basic mayo based Tartar Sauce or just a bottle of hot sauce and lemon wedges.
Catfish are not the only fish in the sea…ha ha. Other wonderful nugget ready fish include Michigan’s own Walleye, Perch and Bluegill. However, with the latter two being smaller fish their fillets could be actually be considered a nugget. Furthermore, with these being Great Lakes fish, a Great lakes beer batter should be your alternative to bread crumbs. Drake’s, a Michigan company, makes possibly the best beer batter for everything from nuggets to frozen Snicker bars. Follow the package directions to perfect fried fish every single freakin’ time.
Beef/Steak nuggets are flour coated and fried hunks of beef served with creamy horseradish sauce or a Kentucky bourbon barbecue sauce will make any party goer or family member happy, happy, happy. Often times referred to as Chicken Fried Steak Bites, they are tender, beefy and a wonderful appetizer or entrée depending on your budget! Once again, these can be altered or enhanced according to your taste buds with Montreal Steak Seasoning or red pepper chili flakes. Try marinating the beef in soy, Worcestershire, olive oil, rosemary, garlic and onions for a few hours before coating and frying. Flavor, flavor, and more flavor is what you are going for here with the marinade.
Now onto the tender Pork Nuggets. These are literally no different than those listed above other than the fact the pig is the star of the show. Tenderloin meat, chunked up and pounded out before frying will provide you with a glorious meal. Use your pantry spices to give these a Cajun or Spanish or even an Asian twist. The basic deep frying recipe as above stays the same, but the sauces could take these little babies up a few notches of their own. BBQ sauce is the obvious choice, but what about a Thai Sweet Chili Sauce or a Caramelized Onion Sauce or even a Warm Jalapeño Cheese Dip.
Once again, you are encouraged to be creative. You don’t have breadcrumbs, try crushed Cornflakes or Ritz Crackers. If you don’t have oil for frying, heaven forbid, bake the little suckers till golden brown. Kids don’t like fish, try any of the other nugget recipes listed above dammit! That’s the key. A nugget is just a fried hunk of meat served with dipping sauces. But, please do not limit yourself to the customs of the local community. Be inspired and step outside and down the street of the damn box! Some other types of fried meats include Turtle Nuggets, Chinese Seafood Balls, and of course Chicken Fried Bacon. How can you go wrong?
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and don’t forget your bib!