A Tale of Two Chickens

Or, Oven-Fried Chicken, two ways.  For Ted’s birthday this year, he wanted to have a picnic in the park.  I didn’t know the grill situation there, and I’ve never really used the public grills in parks and surely there’s at least bird crap on them, right, if not far worse?  So I decided to make fried chicken.  It’s traditional picnic food, right?  Problem is, I’m lousy at making fried chicken.  I mean, I haven’t tried in probably 15 years, so maybe I could do it now, but I think I always heat the oil too hot, and I crowd the chicken, and I’m impatient, so it turns out burned yet oily on the outside, bloody and raw on the inside.  Yeah, not so yummy.  I’ll pass.   SOOOOO….I made Oven-Fried Chicken, or, as Maya calls it, Crispy Chicken.  Traditionally, I make it according to the recipe on the back of the box of ranch dressing mix (don’t judge!), but while I enjoy the tangy ranch flavor, it’s not really very crispy, and so it didn’t seem like it would stand up well to the room-temperature situation of a picnic.  I guess the thing is, that without skin to crisp up, you’re trying to fake that crispness with add-ons, which often fall off.  Quite a dilemma.

Coincidentally (if you believe in such things, which I do), a few days ahead of time, I saw a recipe that looked mighty crispy and like it might be good, for Maple-Mustard Baked Chicken, and part of the recipe mentioned that this was the author’s go-to dish for picnics.  So I was sucked in.  I followed the recipe to a ‘t’, but I would just say it was so-so.  It wasn’t very crispy, and when it was chilled, that became more of a problem.  So while the maple-mustard flavor was nice, and I would eat this again warm from the oven, I wasn’t thrilled about the somewhat soggy cold version.

(photo found along with the recipe)

Maple-Mustard Baked Chicken

Active time: 30 minutes
Total: 1 3/4 hours (including 30 minutes marinating time)
To make ahead: Marinate the chicken for up to 6 hours. Refrigerate the baked chicken for up to 1 day.

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably grade B
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-41/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks and/or breasts), skin removed, trimmed (see Tip)
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat (see Tip)

1. Whisk mustard, maple syrup, 1 tablespoon oil, thyme, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Set a wire rack on a large baking sheet.
3. Combine breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil on a plate. Dredge the skinned side of each chicken piece in the breadcrumbs (with drumsticks, dredge the meatier side) and arrange breaded-side up on the wire rack. Leave at least 1 inch between pieces.
4. Bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot or let cool, refrigerate and serve chilled.

Makes 8 servings.

Tip: When using a combination of thighs, drumsticks and breasts, we recommend cutting each breast in half crosswise (before marinating) to make smaller pieces about the size of an average chicken thigh. And if you buy whole legs, be sure to separate the drumsticks and thighs. When all the pieces are about the same size, they’ll all cook at the same rate.

Tip: To make 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs, trim the crusts from about 3 slices of whole-wheat bread. Tear the bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form.

Fast forward a month, and suddenly I’m looking for a chicken dish to make for dinner…something good that would be easy and quick, since it was for a night when we would be busy. Enter my old friend, FoodNetwork. I thought I’d look for a Giada recipe (though why, I don’t know, since I made this mediocre pasta a few nights before, and it tasted like tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes, and not really anything else…and far more like paste than anything nice…consider yourself warned), but instead I found a page with 5 chicken breast recipes that looked mighty good, and I ended up deciding on their version of Oven-Fried Chicken.

(photo found along with the recipe)

Oven-Fried Chicken


* Cooking spray
* 1 1/3 cups crispy rice cereal
* 2 1/4 cups bagel chips or Melba toasts
* 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 3/4 teaspoon hot paprika
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (2%)
* 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
* 4 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs or halved bone-in breasts (about 6 ounces each)
* 2 bunches scallions
* Harissa, chili sauce or ketchup, for the sauce


Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Set a rack on a foil-lined baking sheet and generously coat the rack with cooking spray.

Finely grind the cereal and bagel chips in a food processor and transfer to a large resealable plastic bag. Add 3 teaspoons olive oil, the paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste and toss.

Whisk 1/2 cup yogurt and the mustard in a shallow bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat, then transfer to the bag; seal and shake to coat. Place the chicken on the rack and mist with cooking spray.

Toss the scallions with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and place alongside the chicken. Bake until the chicken is crisp and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 160 degrees F, about 30 minutes.

Make the dipping sauce: Mix the remaining 1 cup yogurt and harissa to taste in a bowl. Serve the chicken and scallions with the sauce.

This recipe? Much better. The yogurt seemed to keep the chicken moist, while the rice cereal and bagel chips stayed very crisp.  The higher heat and cooking spray probably helped it crisp as well.  And the sauce? Yummy. Just enough kick to it, with the cool of the yogurt. I had never heard of harissa before, but when I was looking for hot paprika in a specialized spice section of the store, I found a dried spice version for about $2, so I gave it a shot. Yummy.  Also, I forgot to toss the scallions with olive oil, so they were dried out. We didn’t bother to eat them.  The real test, for me, was how the chicken tasted the next day.  I work from home, and I’m not one of those people who only eats breakfast food for breakfast, so I decided to try it first thing in the morning.  Verdict?  YUM.  It was still quite moist inside, and the crust held up well to being refrigerated overnight.  Very tasty, very good.  I think we have a winner, and it will probably be a long time before I pull out either the maple recipe or the ranch dressing recipe.

This entry was posted in Recipes.

5 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Chickens

  1. OR you could always get your chicken perfectly fried and tasty by sneaking into the Colonel’s and buying it by the bucket..It really IS finger lickin good…

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