Food Network Magazine (February/March 2009)
We're no strangers to fried chicken, but we don't often make it. We of course love it, but it's a rare treat in our house -- as much because of the messiness of making it as the fact that it's, um, fried.
Truth be told, we've only made it handful of times, for birthday picnics or a fried-chicken cook-off with friends.
That said, we're way on board for "oven-fried" chicken. Thumbing through the second issue of Food Network Magazine, this recipe was one of the things we were eager to make. It promises to be crispy and flavorful, without all the mess of oil-frying.
Could it stand up to the deliciousness of real fried chicken?
Answer: Of course not.
"Oven-fried" chicken, no matter how tasty, will never match the crispy deliciousness of actual fried chicken. It's just an impossibility.
But that's not to say that faux "fried" chicken isn't worth your time. It's still good and can taste wonderful, and it makes a passable substitute for the real deal.
We've actually made oven-fried chicken once before. Back before we were writing The Bitten Word (if you can even imagine a time before 2008), we received a sample issue of Cook's Country in the mail. For those of you not familiar, it's a magazine published by America's Test Kitchen, the people who bring you Cook's Illustrated. If you haven't seen Cook's Country, it's sort of ATK's Everyday Food. That sample issue we received included a recipe for Oven Fried Chicken, which we made and loved. You can see it here in our Flickr stream, from March 2007.
Food Network Mag's recipe has excellent seasoning, with healthy doses of mustard and cayenne. We didn't have any dried sage, so instead we substituted fresh thyme, which added a nice, bright flavor to the chicken. Like other oven-fried chicken recipes, this was a cinch to make. Just batter the chicken with cornflakes and spices and then bake it on a rack (we used cooling racks, set atop rimmed baking sheets).
The finished product was good, but we found that we didn't like it as much as the Cook's Country recipe (subscribers only), or at least our memory of that recipe. This dish tasted a little too much like, well, chicken rolled in cornflakes. There was no pretending that it was a crispy golden-fried skin. It just tasted like a bowl of cornflakes.
We have one other faux fried chicken recipe up our sleeves: this buttermilk chicken with crispy cornflakes. Maybe it's the overnight soaking in buttermilk, or maybe it's the Tabasco. But we thought the flavors of that recipe were much fuller and closer to real fried chicken than this one. The only drawback of that recipe is that it's intended for an outdoor grill -- great for when the weather's nice, but not really doable this time of year.
So it's back to the drawing board for us in our tireless search for perfect faux fried chicken.
4 to 6 servings
Total time: 1 hr 10 min
* 8 chicken pieces (preferably 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings)
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 4 cups cornflakes
* 2/3 cup buttermilk
* 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
* 3/4 teaspoon ground sage
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a rack in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet.
Rinse the chicken in cold water; pat dry. In a wide bowl or on a plate, season the flour with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge each chicken piece through the flour so it's fully coated, tap against the bowl to shake off excess flour and set aside. Discard the flour.
Here comes the part kids like best: Crush the cornflakes by placing them in a big resealable plastic bag, carefully pressing the bag to push out the air. Seal up the bag (with as little air inside as possible) and run over the flakes with a rolling pin. Open the bag and pour the crushed flakes into a wide bowl or onto a plate.
In a large bowl (big enough to dredge the chicken pieces), mix the buttermilk, mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika and sage. Give each floured chicken piece a good buttermilk bath and then roll in the cornflake crumbs.
Arrange the chicken pieces on the rack and place in the hot oven. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, lower the heat to 375 degrees and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through and crispy. The juices should run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife.