May 21, 2012

Baked "fried" chicken

This is a rare savory post today.  I wanted to post it because I love this chicken dish - it's easy and delicious.  Plus, I've been making it often enough that I'd like to be able to pull the recipe up right here rather than dig out my paper copy when I need it.  It is baked "fried" chicken or "fake-fried chicken", as it's called in the recipe I discovered from theKitchn.
I saw this recipe a few months ago and have been making it pretty regularly since.  It is really good!  It doesn't require much advance planning to make and it's easy - baked on a wire rack in a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes - and you end up with crisp chicken that when dipped in some ketchup (the little one prefers barbecue sauce) reminds me of that famous fried chicken with three initials.  Needless to say, it's a whole lot healthier than the fried variety and something you can cook and eat often and feel good about it.

I've baked chicken before but this one is the most crisp I've made thanks to the use of panko breadcrumbs.  And for me, the best part of this dish is the flavor - the chicken is very flavorful thanks to a well-seasoned, dijon mustard based wet dip.  I use chicken thighs, which besides being more forgiving to cook, leaves you with a richer flavor and moister result. 
A typical weeknight dinner - Baked "fried" chicken and roasted sweet potatoes
So if you're looking for a dinner idea or another good chicken recipe, check out this recipe.  I hope you like it as much as we do.

I think there are a few key things that make this baked "fried" chicken work. 

1) Chicken thighs - of course, you can use white meat but the dark variety is more flavorful and moist; plus, you almost can't overcook it so it is a lot more forgiving than using chicken breast. 

2) Panko breadcrumbs - these Japanese breadcrumbs provide the crunch that mimics the crispy fried chicken texture.
3) Flavorful wet base - the wet base made of dijon mustard, egg, oregano, a little hot sauce, along with a good amount of salt and pepper gives the chicken a lot of flavor.  You can really taste it in each bite.

Making this dish is very easy.  However, you do need to have a wire rack that fits onto a baking sheet, and can go into a 425 degree oven.  It's really important to bake the chicken on a wire rack so that it's not sitting on the baking sheet (the bottom would be soggy) and has a chance to crisp up all around.  It actually took some searching for me to find a rack that fits into my baking sheet and could go into the oven but I'm sure glad I found it.

Starting with the chicken, I buy packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs so there's no prep work beyond patting them dry.  (You can cut them into small nugget size pieces, and adjust the baking time, if you like but I don't.  Since there are 3 of us, I try to buy packets that weigh in at about 1 pound or so.  In this case, I have a little over a pound of chicken thigh pieces.
For the wet mix, I beat an egg together with 1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, a teaspoon of coarse salt, 1/4 teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce.  Use a little milk or buttermilk to thin the mixture a little bit.

In another bowl, set aside about 1 1/2 cups of panko breadcrumbs.  (For some reason, the original recipe calls for 1 cup of breadcrumbs for 2 pounds of chicken, and that's just not enough.)
After patting the chicken pieces dry, dip it first in the wet mixture then roll it around in the panko.  Lay the chicken pieces across the wire rack that's been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  I line the baking sheet with foil to make clean up easier.  And I like to lay the chicken pieces flat (instead of tucking in the thin ends) so that it can crisp up all over.  You can also lightly spray the chicken with cooking spray to help it brown up a bit more on top. 
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, bearing in mind the cooking time depends on the size/thickness of your chicken.  I think the best way to check is to take the chicken out of the oven, cut a piece and look inside.  The juices should run clear and the tops of the chicken should be lightly golden when it's cooked.  The internal temperature of the chicken should be at least 165 degrees. 
Grab some ketchup, barbecue sauce, or honey mustard and dinner is ready!

Baked "Fried" Chicken
Adapted from theKitchn

- Serves 3 -

1 pound (or so) of boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Few splashes of hot sauce (optional)
Splash of milk or buttermilk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier cleanup) and set a wire rack on it.  Lightly spray the wire rack with cooking spray.   

Remove chicken thighs from packaging and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, dijon mustard, oregano, hot sauce, salt and pepper together.  Add a splash of milk to loosen it up a bit.  Pour the panko breadcrumbs into another bowl.

Dip each chicken thigh into the wet egg mixture, letting the excess drip off.  Roll the thigh in the panko breadcrumbs, making sure it's evenly coated, and set it flat over the wire rack.  Repeat with remaining chicken thighs.  You can lightly spray the top of the chicken pieces with cooking spray to help them brown more as it bakes.

Bake for roughly 20-25 minutes; the internal temperature should register at least 165 degrees.  Baking time depends on the thickness/size of your chicken pieces.  Unless you're using a meat thermometer, it's best to check for doneness by cutting into a piece to make sure the juices run clear.  The tops should be lightly golden brown. 

Serve with ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey mustard, or whatever your prefer. 

(Should you double the recipe or have extra, leftovers are great tucked into a sandwich the next day.)

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