“Was it the simple things that made me so crazy about you?”
Theme song by Patrice Rushen “Forget Me Nots” from Straight From The Heart
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Sadly, I’m guessing most current music fans who are NOT of a certain age only know the theme song for this as “that sample from that Will Smith song for that Men In Black movie.” Truly sad because it’s a classic of ’80s R&B netting Patrice Rushen a Grammy Nomination for Best Female R&B Performance. Classic ’80s studio keyboards, unnecessary but sexy sax breaks, a straight-up earworm hook, and Rushen’s perfect jazzy vocals combine into a prime example of that smooth ’80s sound. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty much the only Rushen track I know, and I kind of considered her a One Hit Wonder, but listening to her Spotify discography while writing this intro has reminded me that sometimes artists may have one big hit but still make beautiful soulful music. Patrice Rushen is one of those artists.
Honesty, I have never much been a part of the Cult Of Nuggets. I don’t eat at fast food joints, well at least not in the last 4 decades, and I’d much rather chicken wings than some frozen amalgam of chicken parts and meat glue. Even the few times I’ve had real chicken nuggets, I’ve thought “what’s the point?” Chicken tenders? Sure! Chicken nuggets? Ummm, not so much.
Then I started my deep dive to Seitan Worship. My quest to find interesting meat substitutes made with vital wheat gluten ultimately led me into the world of chickwheat. Chickwheat, as may be obvious, is a vegan chicken substitute made with chickpeas and wheat gluten. Add a few seasoning components and you’ve got a pretty decent chicken breast analog.
So when a recent dive into ’80s/’90s R&B Throwback Thursday on Spotify played “Forget Me Nots”, and my Music & Food pun generator kicked in, I realized a chicken nugget made with chickwheat would, in fact, be a “Nugget Me Not.” And a recipe was born.
I have to give props to Mythical Kitchen for the life-changing idea of replacing egg in the dredging process with Ranch Dressing. That keeps this recipe 100% vegan and honestly adds a lovely subtle flavor punch. (Granted I use regular Ranch Dressing at home, but vegan works great here.) I now pretty much have given up on using eggs for any batter/dredging recipe.
You’ve made your nuggets and now you need a dipping sauce. In addition to any leftover seasoned Ranch Dressing, you could go with a simple 1/4 cup mustard. 3 tablespoon honey, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper for a quick Honey Mustard. If you want to get more ambition, check out these BGC sauce recipes:
Rick Szechuan (a riff on the McDonald’s Mulan sauce)
Sweet Chili O’ Mine (sweet chili sauce)
Sweet Lightnin’ (brown sugar jalapeno BBQ sauce)
NUGGET ME NOTS
Makes about 50 nuggets
Making the nuggets
1 cup cooked chickpeas (cold, don’t use warm)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup vital wheat gluten
Blend everything up to cider vinegar in a food processor until completely smooth. Combine with vital wheat gluten in a bowl, mixing completely, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Take the rested dough ball and knead for the length of Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” (about 5 minutes) until the dough is warm, stretchy, and smooth.
Take the kneaded dough, tear or cut off pieces, and shape it into nuggets. I go for about 1/2 ounce nuggets but you do you. Place them in a steamer basket, cover the pot with a lid, and steam for 50 minutes. Once steamed, remove them from the basket and cool on a cooling rack. You may need to work in batches depending on the size of your nuggets. Let them cool completely, ideally overnight, before frying.
Frying the nuggets
1 cup of Ranch or Buffalo Ranch dressing (vegan dressing work great)
3 tablespoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon Gochugaru, Aleppo pepper, or red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-quart vegetable oil
Combine the Ranch dressing, hot sauce, and cider vinegar in a bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, smoked paprika, onion powder, nutritional yeast, cumin, pepper flakes, and another generous pinch of salt. Mix the dry ingredients together to disperse the spices evenly throughout the flour.
Take a cast-iron or heavy skillet and pour vegetable oil in it until the oil comes 2/3 of the way up the sides. Place the pan over high heat to allow the oil to come up to around 350°F – when a pinch of flour is dropped into the oil at this temperature it should sizzle immediately. You can use a deep fat fryer instead if you have one.
Dunk the chickwheat nuggets, a handful at a time, first into the seasoned flour and then into the Ranch dressing mix, coating each one fully and then chucking it back into the spiced flour to coat it once more. Set the coated nuggets aside on a plate. Once all the nuggets have had a double coating of the flour mix, carefully lower them into the hot oil.
Reserve the Ranch mixture for use as a serving sauce.
Allow the nuggets to fry for 5-6 minutes, carefully flipping occasionally, until they turn a deep golden brown on all sides. Once cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer the nuggets from the oil to a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up any excess grease. You might have to fry the nuggets in batches depending on the size of your pan. Keep them warm in a 200°F oven.
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