Oven-Fried Chicken

To my way of thinking, there are very few foods that taste as mouth-watering and tantalizing as a big ol' plate of crispy, crunchy Southern-style fried chicken! But over the years I've learned a few culinary tricks that can produce a similarly-satisfying flavor when that chicken is 'fried' in the oven! If you haven't 'oven-fried' in a while or if you've never 'oven-fried' give my version of this down-home favorite a try. It not only explodes with rich, spicy chicken taste, it's almost crunchier than anything that comes out of a deep fryer! Do some and see for yourself!

1 whole box white Melba toast (5 oz.), totally crumbled

1 package Panko Bread Crumbs

1 box Durkee French Fried Onions, crushed

2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pint liquid egg whites

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Frank Davis Poultry Seasoning

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 bottle squeeze margarine

1 can olive oil non-stick spray

First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and adjust the oven rack so that it rests in the upper-middle position. This is important if the chicken is to brown and 'crust' properly. Then while the oven is heating, take a large sheet pan, line it with aluminum foil, spray a flat wire rack with Pam and place the rack over the pan. (By using a rack, the heat will circulate around the chicken and you won't have to turn the pieces over and disturb the crust).

Next, place the crumbled Melba toast, the Panko crumbs, the crushed Durkee onions, and the Parmesan cheese in a large baking dish. Then drizzle the olive oil over the crumbs and toss them well to coat them. When the dry coating is ready set it aside momentarily. Then in a shallow dish or pie plate, make a 'flavored wash' by mixing together with a whisk the egg whites, the mustard, the poultry seasoning, the sea salt, the black pepper, the cayenne pepper, and the paprika. In fact, for best results I suggest you whip the wash so completely it froths).

Now, working one piece at a time, coat the chicken on both sides by dipping it into the pan with the flavored wash. Then immediately transfer it to the pan with the dry mix. Sprinkle the crumbs over the chicken and press the chicken piece into the crumbs to put on a good coating. At this point, turn the chicken over and repeat the coating process on the other side. When both sides are done, gently shake off any excess crumbs and place the chicken on the greased wire rack.

When all the pieces have been dipped and coated and placed on the rack (they'll get super-crunchy if you try to keep them from touching each other), slide the pan into the oven and bake the chicken until it becomes a rich, deep, nutty brown and the internal juices run clear (which should take you about 40-45 minutes).

For the crispiest results, serve the chicken piping hot right from the oven, alongside a bowl of spicy beet salad. Can you even imagine anything better-tasting than this? Oh, yeah a pan of hot, buttered dinner rolls adds the coup-de-grace.

Chef's Notes:

  • The secret to the 'crunch' in oven-frying is the Melba toast mix-forget everything you ever learned about cornflakes, potato chips, Grape-Nuts, oatmeal, cracker crumbs, stuffing mix, and all the others. From this point on, whenever you oven-fry use nothing but the Melba toast combination. But be careful not to over-process the mix. Put the whole box of toast into a gallon-size Ziploc bag, along with the dried onions, and pound them with a meat maul until it processes to a uniform 'sand and pebble consistency.' Do not use a food processor-it makes the mixture too fine (even it pulsed) and you end up with a soggy crust on your baked chicken.
  • Take care not to overcook the chicken thighs or you'll dry them out!


Beet Salad

It's no big secret that there are 'beet lovers' and 'beet haters.' Well, I think this recipe will make both groups happy and provide for a salad other than plain ol' lettuce and tomatoes.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons Frank Davis Vegetable Seasoning

3 cloves fresh minced garlic

4 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

4 cups diced beets, with canned liquid

1 medium red onion, sliced in half rings

Sea salt & black pepper to taste

4 hardboiled eggs, chopped (for garnish)

Lemon wedges (from 2 lemons)

In a large clear glass bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, vegetable seasoning, minced garlic, minced parsley, and half the liquid in which the beets came packed.. Then with a wire whisk, whip these ingredients together until they are almost emulsified.

At this point, drop into the bowl the diced beets and the onion half-rings and thoroughly toss everything together.

Finally, lightly salt and pepper the salad, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the beets for at least an hour (even overnight).

When you're ready to eat, serve the salad in individual bowls, topped with a crowning touch of the chopped eggs and a quick squeeze from a lemon wedge. Y'all. . .dats Naturally N'Awlins, yeah!