Crispy Baked Chicken Bites

During the 1980s, cookbooks across the country included a recipe for easy baked chicken nuggets.  To the delight of her three daughters, my mother regularly baked a version of these nuggets from the Indianapolis Junior League Cookbook.  I’ve reduced the fat, enhanced the flavor and streamlined the preparation of these bites from earlier formulas.  I love the results.  Make a platter of these bites, prepare a few dipping sauces and applause is sure to follow!  ♥ Maggie Louise

INGREDIENTS
● 1.5 lbs. of skinless boneless chicken breasts (Note: Check your labels.  Chicken breasts are larger and larger each year.  This recipe assumes 4 oz per serving.)
● 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
● 1/2 c. bread crumbs*
● 1/4 c. freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
● 1/2 tsp dried basil
● 1/2 tsp dried thyme
● 1/4 tsp kosher salt

*I never buy breadcrumbs.  I simply make my own in the food processor.  Toast an older baguette or other loaf of bread in the oven for 10 minutes or so, until it is lightly crisp.  Then whirl it around the food processor and voila!  Breadcrumbs.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spray with vegetable spray.  Melt the butter on the stove and let it cool.  Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes.  Make sure that the chicken cubes are a consistent size, to ensure even cooking.  Prepare your other ingredients.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, basil, thyme and salt.  Stir with a whisk until the ingredients are fully mixed together.

Place the chicken cubes in large mixing bowl.  Pour the cooled butter over the chicken.  Make sure you butter is cooled to room temperature before you pour!  With your hands, toss the chicken to coat the pieces in the melted butter.  Next, pour the bread crumb mixture into the bowl.  Continue to toss the chicken with your hands until each piece is lightly coated in the breadcrumb mixture.  Place the chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet.  Leave 1/2 inch or so between each piece of chicken so that the bread crumbs crisp during baking; if the pieces are too close to each other, the steam they create will prevent crisping.  Use a second baking sheet if necessary.  If any breadcrumb mixture pieces accumulated at the bottom of the mixing bowl, sprinkle them over the chicken pieces.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the bites are browned and cooked through.  Place the sheet pan on a rack to cool for 5 minutes.  Enjoy!

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