I decided regular pasta would be fine, but I needed a protein to go with it. What's a good, quick, but lunch friendly protein dish I could make? The second part of the challenge - it also had to hold up pretty well before I ate it for lunch.
There's a website for that! Enter Just Bento! Just Bento is run by Maki, who provides ideas about how to make bento style lunches for lunch that are not only good for you but delicious. Her recipes can be found on her other website, Just Hungry. By the way, Maki has a new adorable book out called The Just Bento Cookbook.
I somehow came across the recipe for Pan Fried Lemon Chicken Nuggets and I loved how simple the recipe was and knew it was perfect for a quick weeknight dish. I had all the ingredients on hand, making life simple. I defrosted my chicken overnight (unfortunately it was slightly frozen, so I cooked it longer) and had half of the chicken for dinner, and the other half went with my lunch.
The amount of time you marinate the chicken (plus starting with unfrozen chicken would help) will develop a much deeper lemon flavor in the nuggets, however, drizzling lemon juice on the chicken also gave it that extra lemon burst. No, it's not exactly like the lemon chicken from Chinese restaurants, but it's a good, quick alternative you can make at home. Just the way I like it.
Gimme a little cocktail fork and I'm good to go.
Heck, you can probably even serve them as an appetizer at a party. Or snack on them as they come out of the frying pan.
One note about frying though - I would use the smallest pan you have, just to make your life easier, and so that the oil creates a layer on the bottom of the pan. If you just drizzle, it tends to collect in one side of the pan versus the other, and your chicken doesn't fry evenly.
Pan-fried Lemon Chicken Bites from Just Bento
- About 10.5 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast (I used breast tenderloins)
- Salt and pepper
- Cornstarch (approximately 1/3 cup)
- One whole lemon
- 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (more if needed)
1. Using paper towels, wipe the chicken dry and cut into bite sized pieces. In a bowl, season with salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lemon. Toss well, and set aside for at least five minutes.
2. Heat up a pan with the oil.
3. Drain the chicken and coat in cornstarch.
4. Pan-fry in the frying pan until brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes, and turn over. Repeat on the other side, about 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat until the chicken is cooked. I always pull a piece out and rip it in half to make sure it is cooked through.
5. Optional: Drizzle soy sauce over the chicken to give it a caramel color.
6. Squeeze the other half of the lemon over the chicken. Let cool if you will be packing it for lunch, or serve hot and eat it right away. Or while you're cooking them...
Served with whole wheat pasta, pomodoro sauce, and some lemon. Yums.