By this time, I believe everyone is familiar with the McDonald’s “pink slime” Chicken McNugget video. What appears to be a heaving mound of Pepto-Bismol pink soft serve ice cream, barely contained in a cardboard box, we discover, is the fast food giants’ processed chicken matter waiting to be fried into McNuggets.
The visual of the writhing pink puree, (actually a quantity of chicken mousse being extruded like so much Play-Doh), is not what bothers me most, nor that the contents contain every scrap part of the bird. What’s most offensive, is the quality and cruel treatment of those tragic antibiotic-dosed, factory farmed chickens. Furthermore, all of those errant parts are so filthy they receive a soak in an ammoniated bath to prevent us from getting sick from contamination. Disgusting, and thanks, McD’s.
I’ve read that McDonald’s will be discontinuing the use of the resulting, ammoniated “pink slime” (also fabricated similarly with beef to stretch the burgers), but come on. The food is still low-quality dreck which has a long road to remedy.
As with most of today’s food supply, if you want to know what’s in it, shop intelligently and prepare it yourself. That goes for the crunchy little barnyard bird bite – but let’s call it what it really is – a chicken croquette. Done properly with a short list of clean ingredients, it’s a hot, shattery-crusted, juicy morsel of savory poultry. Delicate, in fact. Perfect served as a hot hors d’oeuvre, or as your kid’s happiest meal. Healthier than the alternative.
Get over the fact that at one time this photo would have looked like piped chicken mousse and now you can’t help but think, “pink slime”. Trust me – this will become good eating.
Chicken croquettes are easy to make ahead and freeze – one batch yields over one hundred pieces – plenty enough to bag and store for multiple future uses.
A fresh, local pastured chicken from Tea Hills Farm is pureed in the food processor with some egg whites for binding. Local, organic heavy cream (Snowville Creamery, here), is added for enrichment. Salt, pepper and a subtle hint of nutmeg provide light seasoning. If inspired, some duxelles, or other minced, sweated and cooled vegetables make a fine addition.
The sheet pan of piped out chicken mousse then goes into the freezer. Next, cut the frozen ropes into “nugget” sized pieces.
At this time you have two choices: bag the pieces and store as-is to finish at a later time, or dip them into an egg wash, crumb-coat and store, ready to fry out of the bag.
These croquettes were prepped, bagged and stored before I went on Mexican Holiday. Prep for a dinner I catered three days after re-entry was that much easier with one appetizer finished to the point of on-site frying..
Recipe Adapted from *Chef John Stropki via Heidi Robb
Yield: 100 + pieces
1 1/4 lb. skinned and boned fresh, best-quality chicken meat (white or dark or a combination), cut into small pieces.
3 large pastured egg whites
1 cup organic heavy cream
Kosher or sea salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste (taste by cooking a small amount in a hot pan.)
Whole beaten pastured egg (how many depends on the quantity of croquettes you are cooking)
Panko or homemade breadcrumbs
Fat for deep frying (I used lard)
Have all ingredients ready at the same cold temperature. Place the chicken and egg whites into the bowl of a processor. Pulse to break down, then puree until smooth. Pulse in the cream and seasonings, puree until thoroughly combined. Cook a bit of chicken mixture to check seasoning. Correct if needed.
Line a half baking sheet with a silpat or parchment. Fit a large pastry bag with a plain 1A tip. Pipe rows of chicken mousse until all is used – one half sheet should accommodate all of the mixture. Leave space between rows.
Freeze mixture until solid. Remove rows and cut into “nugget”-sized pieces. Bag and freeze or pieces now or proceed.
Have a sheet pan covered with a silpat or parchment ready. Set up dredging station with beaten whole egg and panko or other crumbs. Dip each piece of chicken into the egg to coat then coat with crumbs and place on the prepared sheet pan. You may now either freeze the coated pieces or proceed to deep fry. If deep frying:
Heat fat in a deep pot or deep fryer to 365. Gently lower pieces of coated chicken into the hot oil and cook, turning occasionally, until bronzed in color and cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon or Chinese strainer to a draining rack. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a shower of herbs, or your choice of dipping sauces.
*Cleveland Chef, John Stropki, is one of those thunderbolts of talent who flies under the radar as a corporate chef, (for, umm, A Major Corporation). Karen Pelyhes Gorman, (dearest friend and colleague for nearly – gulp – two decades), and I have been fortunate to be able to call on and employ John for those occasions when we catered high-volume events and needed *that guy* to help get our food out hot, fast and looking great. And he has one of these – hawt.