It started with the nugget
When I was young and remember being a mile within Rochester, I also remember begging to have my parents stop at McDonalds. It might not seem like a big deal these days but we lived 30 miles from a fast food restaurant and, with four kids, it was rare that we stopped to feed the crew unless we were on a long trip. The ask was not for Burger King or Wendy’s because, alas, no nuggets there! Another chance we couldn’t take was to order a cheeseburger because there may be mustard hiding under the patty or the cook forgot to take the mini onions off. So, the mainstay for any fast food stop was the infamous chicken McNugget. I hesitantly say “chicken” because there were many news articles that tried to claim otherwise.
As we moved into our teenage years, it wasn’t cool to order McNuggets because that was the little kids chicken. We had moved on. Moved on to the chicken strip. Oh yeah, you could order chicken strips at many restaurants and fast food too so we had it made and the chicken strip was often advertised and complimented on being real chicken breast. However, we still needed to convince the folks to stop, which was a feat in itself. What kid hasn’t heard, “We just bought groceries and you can have something when we get home.” Augh…the dreaded statement telling us to eat the food in the refrigerator. Death by a thousand McNuggets.
The travel to adulthood offered so many more options for chicken, like grilled chicken, chicken alfredo, chicken kiev, chicken lo mein just to name a few. The grown-up version of the nugget had us using Panko bread crumbs and calling them chicken tenders; the grownup sister of the nugget. As a new mom I remember trying to be creative and avoid fast food as much as possible for two reasons 1) I could make healthier food at home and 2) there wasn’t going to be ketchup all over my car seats. However, mistakenly, I introduced my son to McNuggets one day and, just like his mom, he began to ask for them if we even came close to Rochester or he saw golden arches on our family trips. Being the overachieving new mom that I was for a first child, I quickly tried to create the perfect chicken meal at home for him to enjoy. After trialing many recipes, the final product was born and child approved — chicken rollups. A simple recipe of cooked chicken in a warmed soft tortilla shell with shredded cheese. He seemed to have outgrown the chicken McNugget phase and yes, this mom was proud. So proud that my friends and neighbors probably had to listen to my bragging story of transition my child out of the McNugget phase and the new food he was sold on. So, take a moment to imagine how I was laughing (and the my friends too) when my son told the neighbor kids that his mom takes “chicken McNuggets and rolls them in a taco.” Ah, the nugget lives on.
Hope you enjoy my version of this grownup chicken dish that is a tribute to a favorite from an Italian restaurant in Rochester.
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 links sweet Italian sausage
6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (or get precooked dark meat)
2 large onions, chopped like large petals or half rings
½ large red bell pepper, chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 c. dry white wine
1 c. chicken broth
¼ c. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
Cook the thighs in the oven according to package instructions, debone, and set aside. In a large skillet, cook the sausage completely, cool, slice into coins. Cook the onions in same pan the sausage was in, add 3 tbsp. oil, bell pepper, white wine vinegar and garlic. When soft, add the white wine to deglaze the skillet. Cook down for about 5-8 minutes… you should no longer smell the alcohol. At this point, add in the chicken stock, cooked chicken and peppers, 3 tbsp. oil, fettuccini, salt and pepper and a tsp. of dried rosemary. Add shredded Parmesan if you like. Enjoy!