How to Stage the Chicken Nugget Tray of Your Dreams
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a chicken nugget tray.
I was young, maybe six or seven, and at my piano teacher’s house for a birthday party—her oldest daughter’s birthday, to be exact. Their computer room was right next to the kitchen and had been redecorated to accommodate all the snacks a good party needs: potato chips, cookies, and eventually, a birthday cake. But all those paled in comparison to the goliath assortment of Chick-fil-A nuggets. Chick-fil-A still felt new and beautiful to me, and this tray was like one of the fast-food world’s seven wonders. I knew exactly what I needed to do; I piled nuggets onto my tiny plate, clairvoyant in my certainty that they’d soon disappear.
That’s when I learned that the difference between a good party and a great one lay in one key detail: fast-food catering. Twenty years later, my values are pretty much the same; a “party” spread without nuggets is a misnomer, even a lie.
There are, of course, a few downsides to the Chick-fil-A nugget tray. First, there’s cost: a 64-piece tray, picked up, goes for around $24, about 37.5 cents per nugget—it’s even more if you have it delivered. (Note: prices vary depending on your state’s cost of living.) The issue here is that 64 nuggets is less than you think, especially once a certain level of frenzied gluttony is induced. Even if you go big (say, the 200-count tray), you’re still paying at least 34.5 cents per nugget. The second major downside to a Chick-fil-A tray is the very reason Chick-fil-A cravings seem more powerful than most any other fast food craving… You can’t just have it whenever you want it. Sunday is the Lord’s day, but it’s also when temptation for Chick-fil-A strikes hardest.
If you’re having a Super Bowl party this year, chances are you plan on going all-out. But no matter how tantalizing and tender your wings may be, no matter how perfectly balanced your chili is spiced, the standby classics can’t measure up to the chicken nugget tray. Thus, we crafted a solution: Make your own nuggets, from a bag, and artfully dump them on a platter.
This is your platter, and you are welcome to go with whichever brand of chicken nugget you like. As for us, it’s Sam’s Club’s copycat “chik’n” nuggets all the way, baby. One three-pound bag of these puppies goes for $9.98 before taxes and contains 72 nuggets (that’s about 14 cents per nugget, less than half of the hot and ready nugs) and bakes in 14 minutes. Plus, you have the honor of saying you made them yourself.
Next, you’ll need potatoes. We chose Ore-Ida Golden Crinkles, capitalizing on both texture and taste. Other options considered: sweet potato fries, waffle fries, and tater tots. Again, it’s your nugget tray, so you get to decide.
Now, it’s time for the important part—plating. Keep your nuggets and potato of choice on opposite sides so your guests won’t have to dig around and pick things out and ruin your tray’s integrity. Arrange your food in a way that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing, because someone’s gonna Instagram this thing.
Take your chicken nugget tray to an even higher level with a sauce station. Gather up a variety of dips (Ketchup? Ranch? You know you’ve gotta have Chick-fil-A-caliber honey mustard. And store-bought is great, but you can also make your own!). I arranged them down the middle to keep the nuggets and potatoes neatly divided, but your sauce station can be as simple as an arsenal of bottles or as complex as a variety of homemade sauces poured into small cups (paper, ceramic, steel, whatever floats your boat) so people can have the pleasure of dunking on their own plates. It keeps things hygienic, too, God forbid you or a guest accidentally ingests a stranger’s saliva.
And let me tell you, there is no greater feeling than sensing the pull of hungry eyes as you carry out the nugget platter you created (with minimal effort!) and place it amongst, therefore heightening, the party spread. No greater feeling, none. It’s okay to put on a smug aura. You’ve accomplished something beyond the reaches of whatever higher power you believe in—you made Chick-fil-A happen on Sunday, in your own home, for a fraction of the cost, and thanks to the extra pickle juice these nuggets even taste a little better.
Savor that feeling, because in five minutes your tray will be wiped clean. And just like that, you’ve won the party.