Everyone has a favorite food. One which they may only crave occasionally, but when they do, the craving is so fierce and undeterred that it turns them from a rational and thinking being into a single-minded and irrational soul. The realization that food could could create such determined passion came to me at an early age when I discovered my unwavering love of fried chicken.
I’m not sure how I developed my fondness for fried chicken, but I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that we lived just up the street from a fried chicken restaurant. The entirety of their menu was comprised of baskets of fried chicken and steaming bowls of mashed potatoes served alongside pitchers of gravy. While I had a soft spot for the potatoes, it was the golden, crispy pieces of chicken that won my heart.
We only ate there once, but I remember it in vivid detail from the red gingham napkins and sky blue Pyrex™ bowls heaped with potatoes, to the over-sized plastic rooster that stood next to the cash register.
In the summer when it was warm enough to open the windows, I would drift off to sleep as the smell of fried chicken came wafting through the house on the evening breeze. It’s not surprising, then, that the whole of my small being became obsessed with eating fried chicken, and while my mother wasn’t the sort to fry food, it didn’t stop me from relentlessly hounding her to change her ways.
At some point, my grandmother learned about my single-minded fried chicken obsession and like any good grandmother was only too happy to indulge me. My grandmother, however, was Romanian and she fried chicken the Romanian way, which I soon discovered was not to my liking. Once done, the chicken pieces were hidden beneath a thick crepe-like exterior that tasted strongly of fried onions and bay leaf. Making matters worse, for my grandmother, frying chicken was an act of love and even though I could be a willful and disobedient child and possessed a marked mean streak, I didn’t have the heart to tell her how much I disliked her fried chicken.
Life went on and I ate good fried chicken as often as I could, but of course, it was never as often as I would have liked. Finally, when I was old enough to have my own apartment and lord over my own kitchen and could eat as much fried chicken as my heart desired, I learned a startling and shocking truth–frying chicken was a messy and time consuming affair. Thus, I would go months and months without frying chicken.
One day, when someone dear to me asked if I wouldn’t get out the frying pan and fry up some chicken, I heard myself reply that it was far too much work and would best be saved for a special occasion. Not only was I shocked by my grown up sensibilities, but I was startled to think that I had become the sort of woman who put off the best of life’s little pleasures for some distant day in the future.
I wanted to enjoy the things that gave me pleasure, the things that made me feel good and most importantly, the things that I craved. Sure. It was fun to dream about the perfect time somewhere off in the distant future, but real life is made up of the everyday, and it was with this idea that I rallied myself to the kitchen and decided to come up with an easy recipe for fried chicken that I could enjoy any night of the week.
Oven Fried Chicken
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1/2 cup of milk
1 tablespoon Tabasco™ or other hot sauce
1 12 oz. box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes™
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic power
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
canola or vegetable oil
1. With a sharp knife or cleaver, cut each breast into two equal pieces.
2. Mix eggs with milk and Tabasco™ sauce.
3. Place chicken pieces in a large zip bag and add egg mixture; allow chicken to marinate at least 2 hours.
4. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, finely grind cereal, sugar and seasonings. 5. Transfer crumb mixture to a large zip bag.
6. Preheat oven to 350º.
7. Prepare a sheet pan for the chicken by pouring two cap-fulls of oil onto the sheet pan and evenly distributing the oil. This works out to about 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Set pan off to the side.
8. On a plate, or, in a shallow bowl, place about a cup of the crumb mixture.
9. Drain the chicken pieces in a colander.
10. Working with one piece at a time, roll the wet pieces of chicken through the crumb mixture pressing crumbs into the chicken as necessary.
11. After all the chicken pieces are thoroughly coated, arrange chicken pieces on the sheet pan.
12. Spray the tops of the chicken pieces with olive or canola oil and put the sheet pan into the oven.
13. Bake until chicken is golden brown and internal temperature registers 160º.
Melanie Bryant is a writer obsessed with food. When sheâ€™s not writing about her latest culinary adventures, she spends her time working in the garden, collecting cookbooks, and hanging out at the local farmerâ€™s market. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. "You Had Me at Butter" (www.buttermelup.blogspot.com) is her blog where she writes about all things food.