“All I ever wanted to do was to make food accessible to everyone; to show that you can make mistakes – I do all the time – but it doesn’t matter.” Jamie Oliver, English chef
When super-chef Jamie Oliver was in Appalachia on a televised crusade against bad nutrition and over eating — in my very state, no less — he tried to horrify a child away from chicken nuggets by making them in the worst of fast-food ways. Sketchy bits of poultry, lots of breading, lots of frying oil.
Ironically, because he’s Jamie Oliver, the results looked way tastier than he intended. The child was ready to chow down, the chef was flummoxed and anyone watching was giggling. Like it or not, chicken nuggets are unlikely to exit American life any time soon.
So, I decided to look for a quality way to make them and stumbled on a French (of course) dish called chicken goujons. My version takes the recipe into the gluten-free, dairy-free zone, as well. And, while I’m no Jamie Oliver, these are tasty enough to serve to company.
Quality Chicken Nuggets
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut chicken breasts into strips that are no larger than a deck of cards. (You’ll need about 2 pounds of chicken to serve 6.) Set aside.
Pour 2 Tablespoons olive oil and 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard onto a large dinner plate. Mix with a fork. Set aside.
Put 1 1/2 cups smashed (not powdered) rice squares (a gluten-free cereal), 1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes (for the dairy free), 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning and 2 Tablespoons finely chopped, unsalted cashews into a gallon plastic bag with a zip lock. (A tip: For speed, I skip the cashews if I make this on a weeknight. It’s good without, crazy good with.) Close the zip lock and shake to mix.
(The quantities of oil/mustard and breading are enough for 4-6 servings. If you’re doing more, you’ll need more of both mixes.)
As this can be messy, set up an assembly line with the chicken breasts on one end, then the plate of oil and mustard, then the bag of breading, then a cookie sheet (or two) lined with foil or parchment paper. One strip at a time, roll the chicken in the oil/mustard, then place in the bag of breading and flip around to coat thoroughly. Lay the strips on the cookie sheet with at least 1 inch of space all around.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, checking for excessive browning toward the end. (Cooking time varies by the size of the strips.) Check for doneness by cutting the largest strip open at its thickest point.
This recipe goes particularly well with rice pilaf or pasta in an alfredo or dairy free al-faux-do sauce. (See my recipe archive for the non-dairy sauce recipe.) If, by some miracle, you have leftovers, store them with a moisture-absorbing paper towel in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Cut into bite-sized pieces, they are excellent in a salad meal the next day.