Friday, October 15, 2010

Renouncing the Colonel

When Barry and I went on our diet last year, we had a hard time giving up fried chicken.  How easy it was, after a difficult day, to visit Colonel Sanders' drive-through window and carry off a bucket of greasy delights.  How difficult to swear off fried chicken skin, especially KFC's extra-crispy recipe, which is almost like chicken enveloped in a doughnut and then deep-fried.  We were dedicated finger-lickers.  Salt, starch, and grease - three of the major food groups of unhealthy eating.  What was not to love?

However, give it up we did.  After some experimentation, we developed this spicy substitute, which is much better for us and (we think) even better tasting.  The crumb crust seals in the juices and the seasoning adds flavor to what admittedly can be a rather bland meat.  Our arteries are thanking us for the change.  We hope you will enjoy it as well!

Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken

Vegetable oil spray
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp dried onion powder
2 tsp dried garlic powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2-4 cups panko bread crumbs - we like Ian’s Whole Wheat Style (4 cups gives you a mildly spicy blend;                                                                                                          2 cups is pretty zippy)
Boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 egg for every two chicken breasts used

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and spray a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan with vegetable oil.  In a medium bowl, mix the spices, brown sugar, and lemon zest with a fork or whisk.  When thoroughly blended, add the bread crumbs and mix again.  Place ½ cup of seasoned crumbs for every two breasts you plan to bake in a sealable gallon-sized plastic bag.  (Store the remaining crumbs in a sealed glass or plastic container for future use.)  Whisk the egg(s) in a shallow pan.  Roll one chicken breast in the egg and then shake it in the bag of crumbs.  When the breast is coated with seasoned crumbs, place it on the prepared pan.  Repeat with the other breast(s), one at a time.  Bake.  After 10 minutes, check to see whether the crumbs are getting too brown; if so, cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Continue to bake until a food thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breasts reads 165 degrees (the temperature will go up another 5 degrees or so after you take the chicken out of the oven); how long this will take depends on your oven and how large the breasts are, but start checking when the chicken has been baking for 15 minutes.  Variation: Use filets of tilapia or another firm white fish instead of chicken; reduce the cooking time.

"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks." ~ Lin Yutang

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