An overnight brine bath in buttermilk and hot sauce keeps these buffalo-wing-inspired grilled chicken nuggets moist as they char over coals.
I love fried food as much as the next person. Give me a plate-scape of golden brown, and I am a happy camper. But woman cannot live on fryolated goods alone. Sometimes a healthier approach is called for, but that doesn’t have to mean you miss our on flavor.
Grilled chicken breast is a great option for meals where you’re looking to save a few calories. Maybe you’re saving them for more important things, like beer? Whatever the motivation, cutting down chicken breast into bite size pieces makes for some great grilling nuggets. But white meat can tend to dry out pretty easily. Solution? Brine it!
Brined meat has been immersed for several hours to overnight in a heavily salted solution. The soak encourages the meat to absorb some of the liquid, which puts you a little ahead of the game for moisture loss during the cooking process. More significantly, the salt in the brine denatures the meat proteins, breaking the protein bonds to ‘loosen’ the protein strands and create a more tender bite.
Next comes the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Instead of attempting to reinvent the flavor wheel, I adopted the classics in a new way. Fried chicken is often given a buttermilk soak to retain moisture, so applying it to the nuggets made sense. To give the plain breast meat an extra boost, I adopted the beloved flavors of Buffalo chicken wings and added a copious amount of hot sauce.
The buttermilk hot sauce brine is an excellent foundation, but the chicken is also given a grill-side coating of a spicy ketchup-based sauce. The grilling sauce helps add vivid color and a little sweetness to offset the heat of the hot sauce.
If you’re worried that these may be a little too healthy sounding, don’t fret. I guarantee you they are a delicious morsel. Treat these nuggets as you would wings, and serve with a generous side of ranch or bleu cheese dressing.