I recently did a Google search to figure out what kinds of spices tend to be used in commercial chicken nuggets (to satisfy a little bit of curiosity over ways that kids get acclimated to flavors). I was horrified at what it turned up. Yech. Gross.
Traditionally, to make “chicken nuggets” I’ve just cubed up some white meat chicken and breaded it and sauteed it in a little olive oil. It generally goes over well, but every once in a while you find a kid (like my son) who’s a stickler for texture… and whole meat chicken isn’t the same as the pressed meat found in commercial chicken nuggets. This seemed like an easy problem for the Food Processor to solve so I set out to make homemade chicken nuggets that would appear on the surface to resemble the ones he gets out in the world.
But then a friend told me that her son was recently diagnosed with allergies to wheat, cow milk, and eggs. Worse, he’s a bit of a picky eater who likes chicken nuggets. Now, here was a challenge (that I took on myself without request; what a busy-body I am!): find a way to recreate chicken nuggets without the egg or wheat. Homemade breadcrumbs were an easy hurdle (if you search long enough you can find wheat-free egg-free bread) but making the nuggets bind together without egg was going to be tough. Egg is practically the universal binder. Unless you are vegan, egg is a easy and accessible source of protein which is what makes it a good binder: it’s liquid protein.
I’ve found an egg replacement online but I’ve never cooked with it and I didn’t want to wait for it to be delivered to try this recipe. So, I wandered around Whole Foods Market for a while musing over what I could substitute for the egg. Inspiration struck when my mind started thinking along the lines of “liquid protein”: silken tofu. Now, generally speaking I’m not a big fan of using lots and lots of soy. There are a bunch of ways that it is actually disruptive to the body and I try to use it in very small amounts. (If you’re interested in reading more check this out.) But a little bit wouldn’t be a problem here and it proved to be the perfect binder in place of the eggs.
These may seem labor intensive, but they aren’t. You can fry up a large batch and refrigerate them to warm up later in the week which makes them super convenient. They are nutritionally packed, no fillers, no scary fats, and nothing in them you can’t be happy about serving your little one. And of course they passed the toughest test in my house: Andy ate them and asked for more!