Chicken Karaage or Japanese/Chinese style deep fried chicken (here’s the recipe I posted for it 6 (!) years ago) is a great bento item, since it’s flavorful and non-greasy even when cold. But many people find deep frying in general, and deep frying in the morning in particular, quite intimidating. Besides, even if it is lighter than your regular southern fried chicken, I guess many people find it hard to justify eating fried foods for lunch at any time.
To address both those concerns, here’s a recipe for pan-fried crispy chicken that uses precooked chicken or turkey. Dark meat works best (though you can try it with white meat), so this is a way to use up your leftover Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey thighs and legs, leaving the white meat for late night sandwiches with cranberry sauce and such treats. You just need enough oil in the pan to prevent the surface of the chicken from sticking, and to give it a nice crisp finish. Since the meat is already cooked, there are no worries about leaving it in long enough to cook through - it just has to heat up.
To add crispiness, fiber, and vegetable-goodness to the chicken, I’ve used some thinly shaved or sasagaki cut burdock root (gobo). You could use any hard root vegetable instead of gobo - carrot should work fine, parsnip or salsify would be great. Even sweet potato should work.
Makes 10 to 12 nuggets
The key to success with this dish is to have chunks of chicken or turkey that are cold (refrigerated) and firm. Overcooked meat that’s already falling apart will turn out rather messy, though it may still taste good.
Combine the chicken or turkey chunks with the soy sauce, ginger and sake in a bowl. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 1/2 an hour if possible; if you’re short on time, just massage the flavors in with your hands a bit and proceed.
Add the shredded vegetables and cornstarch to the bowl. Toss or stir to coat the chunks all over with the cornstarch and the vegetables, pressing the coating onto the pieces of chicken or turkey. You may end up with some chunks of only vegetable, but don’t worry, just cook those along with the nuggets.
Heat up a large frying pan over high heat with enough oil to coat the bottom to a depth of about 1/8th of an inch (.2 cm or so). Add the nuggets, spread apart so they’re not touching, to the pan. Cook until golden brown and crispy (2-3 minutes), turn over and repeat. You may need to turn them over one or two times more to get the desired degree of crispy-golden-brownness.
Remove the nuggets from the pan and drain well on paper towels. Eat as is piping hot, or let cool to room temperature before packing into a bento box.
This does taste better when eaten fairly soon after it’s made, so I would suggest not making it earlier than the night before you intend to eat it.
Shameless plug: you can find more panfried chicken nugget recipes in The Just Bento Cookbook ^_^;
Speaking of cold turkey breast with cranberry sauce sandwiches, although I am emphatically not a fan of roast turkey (yes I’ve tried it brined, fried, Turduckened, etc. - don’t try to convince me otherwise, won’t work) I do love cold turkey sandwiches. Being that I’m in Japan this week I will miss out on that this year, as well as my favorite Thanksgiving side, which comes from Paula Dean. It consists of chilled canned cranberry sauce, the kind that plops out in one gelationous lump, sliced into rounds and sandwiched with thick slices of Philadelphia cream cheese. I know it sounds very suspicious but it’s so good.
Happy Thanksgiving (and feasting) to everyone in the U.S.! ^_^
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