Chicken McNuggets - Six-Pack - Key - © McDonald's Restaurants

COVID-19 Creations: “Not Such A Bad Idea, After All…”

Okay… Consider this a preliminary report on the results of a call out I made to all faithful readers to see if they couldn’t do better than the pro Fast Food Marketing pros and Test Kitchen developers to come up with some really new, truly creative menu ideas to help keep us engaged during the pandemic…

Chicken Nugget Pizza - © 2020 - Rose City PizzaThe ‘original’ Popcorn Chicken Pizza” Just one thing you can do with
with convenient, inexpensive, Popcorn or ‘Nugget’ Chicken…

I recently lamented then dearth if creativity and inspiration among Fast Food idea folks as the COVID-19 crisis wears on. I said they seemed to have hit a wall last last year just as the so-called Third Wave of the novel coronavirus hit, and much of the world went back into lock down mode again. Perhaps I was unwise, though, when I challenged you, out there, to come up with some truly great ideas for new products, fresh mash-ups and potential future Fast Food icons.

Made me downright angry

I actually got angry when I learned of real offerings (of a kind never before seen at Yuletide) like the following.

I thoroughly trashed concepts like a Chicken Breast Sammy with a porous Hash Brown Patty on top that the inventors said was the perfect on-board Gravy Boat for a Turkey-season treat. Likewise, I pooh-poohed a Pizza dressed with dry-ish Turkey Stuffing and drizzled with Gravy. And I wondered with amazement at ‘Holiday Special’ novelty Candy Canes made to look like Strawberry, Key Lime and Mint when they were actually Ketchup, Kale and Pickle. What were they thinking?

Worst of all was the nudge-nudge, wink,wink offering from a major Doughnut purveyor made to look like a Christmas-themed Strawberry- or Cherry-glazed Ring confection that was actually riddled with the essence of the hottest naturally-occurring Hot Chili Pepper known to exist naturally…

So forgive me if I go a little overboard the other way praising the simple, natural extension of one simple good idea offered from an average reader.

So… You start with an order of Popcorn Chicken…

Sounds boring enough when you put it that way, but the key to the whole peroration is word ‘start’. Once you adjust your mind, it gets much better fast!

First – and this was the spur that got the horse running in the first place – was the suggestion of a Popcorn Chicken Pizza. A review at the extreme-whacko FoodBeast blog described it this way: “Inspired by the immensely popular snack found at Taiwanese boba shops, the new Popcorn Chicken Pizza takes breaded chicken thigh pieces and fries them along with Thai basil. For the pizza base, a simple rainfall of mozzarella cheese is met with a dash of five-spice. Once the chicken joins the pie, it’s drizzled with a unique Thai Basil aioli made in house and topped with the crispy fried basil leaves.”

Overlooking the possibly unwise choice of an Asian reviewer for a Pizza, I immediately started thinking, “What a great idea! This could go places…”

Where is this, in fact, going?

I started by considering potential drawbacks. I’ve often found that counter-ordered Popcorn Chicken usually comes with a significant load of small, hard coating-only bits, some of which could probably break a tooth. And I’ve considered these both a ripoff and a potential danger. You can’t eat them unless you’re really, truly hungry enough to eat anything, and they pose a clear and present danger as choking hazards for children.

With that in mind, I weighed the notion of making my own and decided it was too much work and the return didn’t justify the return on that effort. But then I realized third-party frozen Chicken Nuggets and Chicken Chunks were readily available, and they seemed a much better deal, in as much all are fully cooked and require only quick oven or microwave re-heating. And most are actually made of real Chicken, not some equivalent of Pink Slime.

What next?

I immediately thought of what a convenience (and upgrade) these Chicken products would be for ‘nouveau’ Burritos, Tacos, Quesadillas or even a Nacho Tray.

Then, I envisioned a Chicken Stir Fry crowned with these delicious, Crispy Bites, tossed in the theme-sauce du jour. That led, naturally, to a really superior version of classic North American Chinese-style Chicken Balls, with less Breading and more Chicken (!) and any number of different Sauce possibilities, either for dredging or dipping. You could try anything from Thai Sweet and Spicy Chicken Sauce to Satay or Butter Chicken. Buy any of them in jars from the store. What could be easier? Serve ’em with either White or Fried Rice. Or, come to think of it, make them a full, balanced meal with Veggie-Tossed Rice or Noodles.

Looking for something to ‘complete’ a Veggie-style Pasta Dish? Provide some little ‘hidden treasures’ in a Classic Breakfast/Brunch Bake? How about a Crowning touch on a warm or cold Brunch Salad? How keen is your imagination today?

The best part is…

Chicken is a ubiquitous Protein. When it comes to mixing and matching, it is to other foods what Denim is to other clothing styles and colours: the new neutral!

Have some real fun and get the kids thinking of ‘new ways’ to use Chicken Nuggets. I’ve found that, the more I use Chicken Chunks of all sorts, the more ideas suggest themselves to me. I reject a certain percentage of those notions. But, now and then, something really good emerges from the mental melée…

~ Maggie J.

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