Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the nugget. With that in mind, the team at Montreal’s Joe Beef concocted a sophisticated take on the timeless favorite using eel as the filling (you’ll never look at that “chicken” filling the same way again) and cornflakes as the coating for a nostalgic crunch.
For the Filling
- 8 ounces (225 g) smoked eel, cleaned and skinner (or you can use smoked sturgeon or hot-smoked salmon)
- 8 ounces (225 g) potatoes, peeled; boiled until tender; drain; and mashed with a fork
- 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- 1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
- Salt and pepper
For the Crust
- 1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (250 ml) milk
- 2 cups (170 g) crushed cornflakes
- canola oil for deep-frying
- honey mustard
- Classic Tartar Sauce
- Piri Piri Honey
For the Filling
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the eel on a baking sheet and warm in the oven for 5 minutes. Bring it out and inspect it for pinbones and extract any you find while it is still warm. Place the eel in a bowl and, using a fork, shred it.
- Add the potatoes, egg yolks, chives, mustard, and shallot to the eel and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the texture appears too soft to form a consistent nugget, mix in a tablespoon or two of crushed cornflakes (from the crust ingredients) to help bind the ingredients. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or so, or until chilled.
- Using your hands, shape the eel mixture into rectangular nuggets about 1 by 1½ inches (2.5 by 4 cm).
For the Crust
- Set up your 3-bowl assembly line: put the seasoned flour in a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk in a second shallow bowl, and put the crushed cornflakes in a third bowl. Carefully yet generously coat each nugget in the flour, then dunk it in the egg bath, and finally give it a good roll in the crumbs. Reshape to make sure you have that negligently perfect nugget form. Now, put all the nuggets through the triple coating again. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to help the crust “set.”
- Pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches (7.5 cm) into your deep fryer (or according to the manufacturer’s instructions) and heat to 350°F (180°C). (Or, use a thick-bottomed, high-sided pot and a deep-fat thermometer.) Working in batches, fry the nuggets for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they get that classic nugget color. Drain briefly on paper towels, pat them dry, and serve with one or all of the sauces.
For the Honey Mustard
- Mix together ¼ cup (60 ml) strong Dijon mustard, ¼ cup (85 g) honey, and 1 tablespoon each mustard seeds and chopped fresh dill.
For the Classic Tartar Sauce
- Mix together ½ cup (125 ml) mayonnaise; 1 tablespoon each finely chopped capers, gherkins, tarragon, and shallot; a pinch of sugar; a dash or two of Tabasco sauce; and 1 tablespoon pickle brine.
For the Piri Piri Honey
- Warm ¼ cup (85 g) honey for about 30 seconds, then mix in 1 or 2 piri piri (African bird) or other small crushed dried chiles.