When I was a kid, having my dad bring home the big red bucket of fried chicken was a real treat. We didn’t eat out very much at all and my mom always tried to cook healthy things for us to eat. She never made fried chicken but she did dredge chicken drumsticks in seasoned cornflakes or breadcrumbs, baked it in the oven and called it “fried chicken”. We weren’t convinced. For me and my brother, fried chicken came from a bucket and my mom’s shake & bake-style chicken was no rival for that dapper Colonel Sanders.
When it was my time to start cooking, I steered clear from dredging chicken parts in breadcrumbs. Instead, I roasted whole chickens, grilled up skewers full of spice, stewed chicken parts in sweet & sour sauces or braised them with wine. As an adult, I also stayed away from that big ol’ bucket. When I had fried chicken, I made sure it was fried chicken worth eating. But recently, a little bit of my resolve broke. I stumbled across a recipe from epicurious for oven-fried spicy chicken and I was ready to start dredging. The key here is not to start with seasoned breading (although that’s certainly a large part of it too), but to brine the chicken beforehand in a tangy marinade. The original recipe uses buttermilk, but I subbed in plain yogurt and a bit of milk and lemon and a whole lotta spice. It worked perfectly!
Like the chicken found in the bucket of my youth, the crispy skin here is a real treat. There’s a definite crunch that shatters when you bite into it and chicken inside is flavourful, moist and juicy. I decided to bust out my three favorite hot sauces for use in the brine because I like my chicken with a lot of spice. I also used cayenne and smoked hot paprika in the breading to ensure an all-over spiciness. The chicken is spicy but it won’t burn your face off – if you’re making this for kids or you’ve got a wimpy palate, just use a bit less. As for the next day, this chicken still tastes great hot or cold. Serve it for dinner or bring it along to your next picnic in the park.
Elsewhere: I know that you probably are a fan of my quick pizza dough. Over at Poppytalk, I went further and made a peach and escarole pizza. Yup, you heard correctly. It was fantastic! Check out the recipe and the amazing photos here.
spicy oven-fried chicken
(adapted from epicurious)
1 c yogurt
1/4 c skim milk
juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
4 T hot pepper sauce (I used a blend of Sriracha, a standard vinegar based hot sauce, & Secret Advark)
2 T Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
1/2 onion, sliced
4 chicken legs with skin and bones (organic & free range)
1 c dry breadcrumbs or crushed crackers
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
1/4 c flour
2 t dried thyme
1/2 t hot smoked paprika
1/2 t cayenne pepper
3 T butter
In a large bowl, whisk together everything from the yogurt to the onions. Submerge the chicken legs and let marinate for 3 hours or overnight, turning chicken occasionally.
Preheat oven to 425F. In another large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs through to the cayenne pepper. Pull out a large baking dish so that it’s handy. Using one hand (for less mess), pull out a chicken leg from the yogurt bowl and give it a little shake to get rid of excess drips. Dredge the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture and place it in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining legs. Dot each piece of chicken with some butter and bake until the chicken browns and gets crispy, about 50 minutes.