In her new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinner’s Ready!, Food Network star and culinary blogger extraordinaire Ree Drummond shares a recipe for a quick, make-at-home version of Chick-fil-A’s famous pickle-brined nuggets. “If you aren’t a fan of pickles, you can’t taste that flavor at all,” she notes. “The pickle juice just serves as a tenderizer/magical touch that will make you fall in love with these chicken bites for life.” Get the recipe below, and read our interview with Drummond and find more of her recipes here.
Ree Drummond’s Pickle Chicken Bites
The Oklahoma cooking show host riffs on Chick-fil-A nuggets
Photo: Ed Anderson
Pickle Chicken Bites (Yield: 4–6 servings)
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
¼ cup juice from a jar of dill pickles
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. powdered sugar
Vegetable oil, for frying
Heavenly Maple Mustard (see below), for dipping
Heavenly Maple Mustard (Yield: About 1½ cups)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup grainy brown mustard or Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. kosher salt
Make the dipping sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the maple syrup, paprika, and salt. Stir until everything is mixed together, then transfer the mixture to a half-pint jar and screw on the lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Brine the chicken: Put the chicken in a large bowl and pour the pickle juice on top. Toss to combine and let it sit for at least 5 minutes, or up to 20 minutes.
Bread the chicken: Toss the chicken once more, then sprinkle in the cornstarch, pour in the egg, season with the salt, and toss until the chicken is evenly coated. In a shallow dish or tray, combine the panko and powdered sugar and stir to mix. Add two or three pieces of chicken to the crumbs, coating the whole surface as much as you can. Keep going until all the chicken is breaded.
Cook the chicken: In a deep skillet or wok, heat 2 inches of oil to 365°F. Gently drop in a few pieces of chicken at a time and fry them until they are golden and crisp and the chicken is fully cooked through, carefully moving them around in the oil, 2 to 2½ minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider strainer to remove the chicken to a tray or plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Repeat to cook the rest of the chicken. Serve with Heavenly Maple Mustard.
Excerpted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinner’s Ready! by Ree Drummond. Copyright © 2023 by Ree Drummond. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow Cookbooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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