January 11, 2012

The Maine Ingredient: A new and healthier meaning for 'happy meal'

By Anne Mahle

My little one asked me yesterday what a chicken nugget was, and in one of those parenting moments when you realize so many things all at once, I thought about how sheltered she is, how lucky she is, how proud I was of the choices we are able to make and also, how sad that she doesn't get that "fun" food.

And then I thought, "Wait a minute! I can make my own nuggets. We can still have 'fun' food!" And that is how this recipe was born.

Since we were on the train of making food that she'd asked about, we made oven fries, a household favorite, so-called "healthy fries" in our house. Lastly, we added a really simple romaine salad. It was Sunday, so I decided to make buttermilk dinner rolls to go with it all.

We all pitched in and helped, the girls now FAR more adept at working with dough and rolling out the rolls than they used to be, when much of their time was spent seeing if they could submerse their arms into the big bag of flour all the way up to their shoulder.

HOMEMADE CHICKEN NUGGETS WITH BLUE CHEESE DIPPING SAUCE

Serve these with carrot and celery sticks and blue cheese dipping sauce – with Frank's hot sauce on the side for those who what to spice it up, or honey for those who like the sweeter side of life.

NUGGETS:

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon Frank's hot sauce (or more)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 pound chicken tenderloins (chicken tenders)

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat the broiler. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by placing two cooling racks (the ones you usually use for cookies) on top, side-by-side and overlapping. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, hot sauce and salt. Add the chicken, and with a wooden spoon or your hands, turn to coat.

Place the bread crumbs in a medium bowl, and dredge the chicken in the crumbs. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Broil for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, turning with tongs when the edges begin to brown.

 

BLUE CHEESE DIPPING SAUCE:

1 cup crumbled blue cheese, about 5 ounces

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, about 1 clove

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

4 medium to large carrots, cut into 3-inch sticks

2 large celery sticks, cut into 3-inch sticks

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl, and whisk until the blue cheese has been broken into pea size or smaller pieces. Serves four to six.

 

SIMPLE ROMAINE SALAD

8 to 12 whole leaves of romaine (depending on size), washed and dried

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon

1 pinch of sea salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

1/2 roasted red pepper, julienned

Lay the romaine leaves out on either a platter or individual plates. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper. Top with the red pepper and Parmesan, and serve immediately. Serves four.

 

BUTTERMILK DINNER ROLLS

1 1/2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons yeast

3/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon salt

8 cups all-purpose flour

Add water and yeast to a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Add buttermilk, oil, sugar, eggs, salt and 1 cup of flour, and mix with a sturdy wooden spoon. Continue to add flour until the dough forms a ball that feels easier to knead than to mix with a spoon. Knead for 5 minutes (or 2 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook).

Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how cool your spot is. (By the stove or on top of the refrigerator are usually two warmer places in a kitchen.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Punch down and shape into any sort of roll you'd like. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until the rolls are brown on top and bottom, or an internal read thermometer reads 220 degrees. Makes about 24 rolls.

 

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of "At Home, At Sea." She can be reached at: chefannie@mainewindjammer.com

 

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