Making Good Fried Chicken Even Better
When I offered a recipe here back in 1999 for making oven-baked fried chicken, the Holy Grail for healthy eating was cutting fat and calories from popular dishes. At the time decreasing them were so important that versions where the crust was limp and the chicken dry were widely accepted. When my recipe produced fried chicken with a crunchy crust over deliciously moist meat and only 16 percent of calories from a mere 6 grams of fat per serving, it was a hit.
Recently, I set out to improve this recipe by including whole grain while still keeping the result crisp and delectable. To achieve this, I used whole-wheat panko for the outer coating instead of crushed fat-free soda crackers that were key to my earlier success. In fact, panko’s nubbly crunch makes this new version even better.
I did try, and rejected, using whole-wheat flour in the seasoned coating, because it turned gummy. Absorbing more moisture than white flour, it also made the chicken drier. Since the amount of flour that actually clings to the chicken is minimal, I feel that using white flour for the first coating is no big deal.
What has remained the same in this new version is the yogurt and egg white wet coating. It makes a good base for the panko and the yogurt, like buttermilk, assures the chicken’s tender moistness. You are more likely to have it on hand, too.
Do coat the chicken generously with either canola or olive oil cooking spray. Today, while still watching calories, we also appreciate that fat is not automatically bad, so you can do this without guilt. Please be sure to spray the wire rack, as well. Flouring the chicken in a paper bag instead of a plastic one lets the coating move more freely and gets more of the seasoning in the flour onto the pieces.
The next day, leftovers of this fried chicken will still draw compliments.
Crisp Oven-Fried Chicken
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 254 calories, 3 g total fat, ( 22 g carbohydrate, 34 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 291 mg sodium.
- 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1¼ tsp. dried basil
- 1¼ tsp. mustard powder
- 1¼ tsp. dried oregano
- 1¼ tsp. dried or rubbed sage
- 1¼ tsp. dried thyme leaves
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg white
- 1 container (6 oz. low-fat, plain yogurt)
- 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat panko
- 4 skinless chicken breast halves with rib (about 6 oz. each)
- Canola or olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray wire baking rack, place it on foil- covered baking sheet and set aside.
In brown paper bag, combine flour, basil, mustard, oregano, sage, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper by shaking bag; set bag aside. In shallow, wide dish, use fork to beat egg white until frothy. Mix in yogurt, and set dish aside. Place panko in another shallow, wide plate.
One at a time, using paper towel, pat a chicken breast dry, drop it into bag and shake to coat evenly with seasoned flour. Dip floured chicken in yogurt mixture, turning to cover it completely, then shake gently to remove excess. Place chicken in panko, rib side up and using your fingers, press panko to cover chicken all over. Place panko-coated chicken rib side down on prepared rack. With your fingers press on panko to cover any open spots. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces, leaving at least 1 inch between them on rack. Coat tops of chicken breasts with cooking spray. Discard remaining flour, yogurt mixture and panko.
Bake chicken until crisp and golden brown with darker edges, about 45 minutes. Instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast should register 165 degrees F. The chicken is crunchy when served within one-half hour. It keeps, wrapped in foil in refrigerator, for 2 days, though breading will be soft.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.