We have never been a chicken nugget family. This is not me passing judgement on those whose kids’ diets are primarily chicken nuggets—there was actually a phase when we sort of encouraged our kids to get into chicken nuggets (how convenient, to have a go-to item to order in restaurants, we thought) but they just never bit. When my son came home from school claiming he was into them, we tried a couple times—with frozen organic brands (weird, and gross), then awesome homemade ones (which only my husband and I would touch). In that latter case, my husband was skeptical. “You’re making chicken nuggets hard,” he said. “The whole point of chicken nuggets is that they’re easy.”
So we tried again, this time with one of the big brands (Tyson, I think?) Southern-style, whose breading hung limply off the meat like loose skin, and whose aroma recalled high school gym class. Done with chicken nuggets, I declared us.
Fast forward to a recent visit from my mom, who always arrives with a car full of food—standard is a gallon of olive oil, 24 boxes of penne, 8 packets of frozen homemade pesto, a tower of homemade pizzelle, and a big brown bag full of bagels the size of pool floaties. This time, she also had two gallon-size ziplocs filled with, I’ll be honest, unappealing-looking chicken cutlets—covered in crumbs, but the pink rawness was still visible beneath. “Keep these in your freezer,” she said, “for some night when you’re rushed.”
I’ll admit, my inner food snob bristled. “It’s not that hard for me to bread some chicken,” went the inner dialogue. “What is the point of that?”
But as many mom predictions ultimately come true, it wasn’t long after she’d left that we had one of those rushed nights. And I filled a baking sheet with a bunch of those cutlets and popped them in a 375-degree oven for something like 15 minutes while I did whatever else needed to be done—likely holding the baby, who in the hour leading up to dinner, suddenly only wants to be held.
The kids knew exactly what the point was with that chicken. Dinner was a home run. “Can I dip it in ketchup?” asked my son, and then he and his sister proceeded to eat through pretty much the entire baking sheet. My husband and I alternated between classing it up (squeezes of lemon) and riding the kid-food wave (him dipping bites in barbecue sauce, me dipping bites in honey). Turns out, while it might not be that hard to bread chicken, it’s still easier to just put a bunch of frozen stuff in the oven. I will definitely keep bags of it in the freezer from now on.
So here’s how you do it, right from Mom herself: Dip thin chicken cutlets in beaten egg, then in Italian-seasoned panko. Spread on a baking sheet and freeze. When the chicken is frozen, you can transfer it to ziplocs. Thanks again, Mom.