By SARA MOULTON
First, a confession. I don't watch the Super Bowl. As a matter of fact, I rarely even know who is playing. Still, I'm well aware that it is far and away America's largest secular holiday and that the celebration requires not only watching the game on television, but also eating a hefty snack or meal while doing so.
Naturally, such a manly event calls for manly cuisine, designed to be eaten by hand and that will stick to the ribs. The key food groups are meat and melted cheese, preferably deep-fried.
Buffalo-style chicken wings and chicken nuggets are just the sort of deep-fried deliciousness we're talking about. And my recipe marries the two and, incredibly, does so in a way that simultaneously satisfies the soul and keeps the blood whistling through the old arteries.
My biggest challenge in the creation of this recipe was to construct a crisp crust without a vat of fat.
I worked out a delicious home-style version of chicken nuggets that requires no deep-frying years ago. I started with chicken tenders, those little flaps of chicken meat attached to the underside of each chicken breast. I tenderized each tender — including the tendon — by soaking it in well-seasoned buttermilk before cooking it. I coated it with a mixture of breadcrumbs and panko (for extra crunch) and sauteed it in olive oil.
But even sauteed chicken nuggets can be fairly caloric because the crumb coating soaks up oil like a sponge. I solved that problem for this version of the recipe by using vegetable oil cooking spray on the chicken and cooking it not in a pan, but in the top third of a hot oven.