Even people like me who don’t watch the Super Bowl realize that it is far and away America’s largest secular holiday and that the celebration requires not only watching the game on television, but also eating a hefty snack or meal while doing so.
The key food groups are meat and melted cheese, preferably deep-fried.
Buffalo-style chicken wings and chicken nuggets are just the sort of deep-fried deliciousness we’re talking about. My recipe marries the two and, incredibly, does so in a way that simultaneously satisfies the soul and keeps the blood whistling through the old arteries.
Years ago, I worked out a delicious home-style version of chicken nuggets that requires no deep-frying. I tenderized each tender by soaking it before cooking in buttermilk flavored with garlic and my favorite smoky hot sauce, with a hefty pinch of salt to create a brine.
The chicken luxuriated in this buttermilk bath for several hours, after which I coated it with a mixture of bread crumbs and panko (for crunch) and sauteed it in olive oil.
The dish was still fairly caloric because the crumb mixture soaked up oil like a sponge. I solved that problem here by using vegetable oil cooking spray on the chicken and cooking it not in a pan, but in the top third of a hot oven.
If it is not quite as crispy as the sauteed version, it is nonetheless ridiculously flavorful. I added a blue cheese dipping sauce – one of the trademark ingredients of Buffalo chicken wings. Traditionally, the wings are tossed in a mixture of hot sauce and butter after they come out of the hot oil. But I didn’t want to sog up my finished product, so I recommend dipping the finished baked nuggets, first in the hot sauce, then in the blue cheese. I think you will agree that this combo is a touchdown.
Buffalo Chicken Tenders
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot sauce, divided
2 cups plus 6 tablespoons buttermilk, divided
1 pound chicken tenders (or chicken breasts cut into 3-by-1-inch strips, a-inch thick)
3/4 cup whole-wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, salt, 2 tablespoons of the hot sauce and 2 cups of the buttermilk. Whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the chicken tenders and stir to coat well with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 10 hours.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with olive oil cooking spray.
In a shallow bowl combine the whole-wheat and panko bread crumbs. In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining 6 tablespoons of buttermilk, the mayonnaise, blue cheese and lemon juice. Transfer to a ramekin for dipping. Pour the remaining ¼ cup of hot sauce into a second ramekin for dipping.
Use a colander to drain the chicken, but do not pat it dry. Dip each chicken piece in the bread crumb mixture, coating well on both sides. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, then spritz the tops with olive oil cooking spray.
Bake on the oven’s middle shelf for 10 minutes. Turn the piece and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Transfer to a platter. Serve with dipping sauces.