Fried chicken is perfect for a tailgate picnic. The challenge is making it mouthwatering – crisp outside and succulent inside – without the deep-frying.
To meet this challenge, I have tried many coatings and methods. Finally, this one produced a skinless chicken breast that is lean and as golden and moist as deep-frying.
My oven-baked chicken is also crunchy when served straight from the oven. I admit, however, that while this buttermilk-marinated chicken is juicy and its coating has the tasty, spicy flavor of fried, it does not stay crisp when served at room temperature, a result only frying produces.
To achieve success, begin with boneless chicken breast cut into strips. (Tenders would be even better, provided their higher cost fits your budget.) A traditional Southern marinade such as buttermilk, prevents the very lean chicken breast from drying out quickly. A little salt in the marinade adds to the tenderizing benefits from the buttermilk enzymes and provides the moisture retention of a light brine.
Most fried chicken is dipped three times to achieve its crispy coating. First, in seasoned flour, then a wet dip, and finally an outer coating that produces its thick crust. With baking though, skip the flour for a better result.
The hardest part of this challenge was finding a coating that would become golden and get crunchy along with having good flavor. I tried flour, rolled oats, crushed crackers and crushed breakfast cereal and the cereal won, hands down. If this sounds odd, fans of cornflake-crusted fried chicken will swear it is the best. Seeking whole-grain for extra goodness, I discovered that kamut breakfast cereal flakes, seasoned liberally with herbs and spices, make the ideal baked “fried” chicken. Most supermarkets and all natural food stores carry this, making it easy for you to serve this chicken as part of your next tailgate spread.
– Makes 4 servings.
- 1/2 cup light buttermilk
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
- 1 lb. skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in 1-inch strips
- 1 large egg white
- 4 cups kamut flake breakfast cereal or natural corn flakes
- 1 tsp. mustard powder
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- Canola cooking spray
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with baking parchment, coat with cooking spray and set aside.
In resealable 1-quart plastic bag, combine buttermilk, paprika, lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. salt. Add chicken, seal bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
In wide, shallow dish beat egg white until frothy.
Place cereal flakes in 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Using rolling pin, crush cereal into fine crumbs. Add mustard, oregano, thyme, basil, cayenne, remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to crushed flakes and shake to blend well. Spread crushed cereal mixture in wide, shallow plate.
Drain chicken breast strips, roll in egg white, then roll in cereal crumbs, pressing firmly so they adhere. Place coated chicken on prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch between pieces of chicken. Spray coated chicken breasts with cooking spray until they glisten. Discard leftover egg and cracker crumbs.
Bake chicken until browned and crunchy outside and an instant thermometer reads 160 F. when inserted to the center at thickest point, about 15 minutes.
Per serving: 270 calories, 4.5 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 28 g carbohydrate, 29 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 610 mg sodium.
“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.