Friday, October 28, 2011

Pan 'Fried' Chicken

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Sometimes I find myself with a craving for Southern comfort cuisine, but as quickly as I crave I consider two key issues: calories + labor. In my family, pulling out the deep fryer doesn't take too much thought; it seems as though we all have one. Here in Los Angeles, I've stopped myself many times from purchasing one of my own...the temptation to make my childhood treats would be too great. This quick and easy Pan 'Fried' Chicken shortcut is just that: a shortcut. It is not a recipe so much as it is a means of giving you that flavor without the 'heavy' baggage. 

Now on to the food!

Breading (season as you wish):
  1. A buttermilk soak is common after the chicken has been tossed in flour. After as little as 30 minutes, toss the chicken in flour again and fry in your preferred method until fully cooked and breading is golden.
  2. What if you don't have flour? If you have crackers, crush them up and do the same as the above. 
  3. No crackers? Consider cereal, you can get the same result with rice krispies, crispix, corn flakes, bran flakes...think: clean and simple. Avoid sweet cereals and cereals with harder textures.
  4. If you don't have buttermilk, then use egg. Whisk one or two eggs together (with or without the yolk) and evenly coat your chicken, then toss in whatever coating you've come up with above and cook as preferred.
  5. Not interested in egg or buttermilk? Then don't use either. Press the chicken into the coating you've chosen and cook as preferred.
'Frying'
  1. A deep fryer isn't necessary for fried chicken, but certainly makes it easier. 
  2. You can also use a deep pan to avoid the splatter and pour in your oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, olive...depending on preference) to about 1/4 to 1/2" in depth. 
  3. If you prefer not to fry like above, then toss a little butter, melt, and press your coated chicken in to sear. Once golden, and you've tested the chicken to be fully cooked, then plate. 
  4. If you prefer not to use butter, then try an oil spray, and sear the chicken as you would normally. 
  5. If you wish to avoid the pan fry method altogether...just bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes in the oven. I'd advise against, because then it's no longer fried chicken!
Pictured above is a combination of Breading: #3, #5, and Frying: #3. Translation? The chicken tenders were seasoned with cayenne pepper, pressed into crushed corn flakes, and pan-seared in butter. The tenders were thin enough to cook all the way through and plated straight from the pan! The result was deliciously simple and a perfect fix for my craving.

Note: For breasts, I would suggest cutting horizontally to convert the breast into two thinner halves. If tenders, the pan-method may be fine, but making a few shallow cuts assists in the cooking. If the breading becomes golden brown but you're unsure if it's fully cooked, cut a slice and check. If not, bake in the oven on foil for 10-15 minutes at 350, depending on the thickness of the meat. Don't risk your health because it smells good!!

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