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Oven-Fried Chicken

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"The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook."
-- Julia Child

This is another (somewhat modified) recipe from my friend Sarah, a fantastic chef who lives much too far away from me. She told me she makes it weekly & I thought she was exaggerating. Then I started making it weekly. It is very easy &, as she put it, utterly scrumptious. If there's any leftover it's great the next day too -- mine's never lasted beyond that.

I usually buy a big bargain pack of chicken parts (thighs are great, breasts delicious, drumsticks too), do up the whole thing & invite the neighbors over. The first time I didn't make enough, even though I made 7 breasts for the 3 of us (I only had one leftover because I fought Jason for it) & there was a lot of other food on the table. Seriously, make a lot.

ingredients

  • a pile of chicken, on the bone
  • a head of garlic, 1 tbsp salt & 2-3 cups water
    or
    2-3 cups buttermilk
  • breading to please
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • a day's head start (15 minutes prep)
  • an hour or so cook time (with another 15 minutes prep)

instructions

I'm giving two methods here, but I should admit that after I tried the buttermilk soak, I've only gone back to the brine for my non-dairy friends.

To brine, dissolve the salt in a cup of hot water (from the tap or nuked for a couple minutes is fine). Add another cup of water. Add a head of crushed or chopped garlic.

Rinse the chicken parts & put them in a large container or bowl with a lid. I use a big square container that says it holds 13 cups. Once when I remembered to take notes, I wrote that I put in over a dozen drumsticks & used 2 & a half cups brine.

Add the brine to cover the chicken. If you need to add more water just be sure shake it up a bit (with lid on of course!) to get it distributed evenly.

For the buttermilk soak, just keep pouring buttermilk in till the chicken's coated completely. Make Buttermilk Corn Bread to use up the rest of the carton.

Put the lid on & leave the container in the fridge overnight or at least for the day. I've misjudged my timing & left it for 2 days with great results, but I wouldn't go longer -- & don't go past the chicken's due date!


When you're ready to cook it, preheat the oven to 400°F. Set the pan you're going to use in there to get hot.

With brined chicken, drain the chicken in a big colander & pat it as dry as you can. If you've gone with a buttermilk soak, just take the chicken out & slap it directly into your breading.

Bread the chicken in your favorite style.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan & make sure it is plenty hot before you put in the chicken. Settle the chicken pieces in, skin side down. I've packed a pan pretty full but it's the contact with the buttery bottom that makes it crispy, so if you need to use a second pan I bet you won't regret the clean up once you've eaten it (I can sound a little cocky, see, 'cause it's not my recipe & my compliments are all to Sarah for sending this one my way).

Place on the bottom level of the oven, close to the heat, for about 40 minutes.

Here's one of the things I love about Sarah's recipes: she says, "use a spatula to turn" because she knows I'm the kind of idiot will stick my fingers right into the hot pan -- which I do anyway, then laugh & grab my tongs to finish the job.

Let bake another 20 minutes or so. Let cool a few minutes & serve with corn on the cob, slaw, potato salad, a big green salad, whatever floats your boat. & don't hurt yourself -- it tastes great leftover.


breading

I use some combination of the following ingredients: bread crumbs, flour, corn meal or masa, lemon zest, parmesan cheese (both suggested by Sarah), pepper (white pepper is one of my favorite spices), paprika, a bit of cayanne, hot pepper flakes, ginger, coriander, mustard seed, cardamom, nutmeg, oregano, thyme &/or any other spices that grab me that day. Remember that in the above recipe the chicken has been soaking in salt & garlic.

I mix about equal parts bread crumbs, flour, corn meal or masa (I love the combination of coarse & fine) & then add in a bunch of flavor on a large plate. The original recipe suggested the big ziplock bag method but I'm not much of a throw-away-after-one-use fan so I'm willing to get a little messier -- I like to get my fingers in & make sure plenty of breading sticks. Press the mixture onto all surfaces of the chicken & shake lightly to get rid of excess.



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