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melba toast oven-fried chicken

January 4, 2011

My grandmother’s housekeeper used to make the best fried chicken — it was so flavorful, moist and perfectly crisp.  I’d like to be able to make fried chicken just like it, but without a hood vent over my stove my house ends up smelling like Popeye’s for days.  Plus, I need to be eating fried chicken regularly like I need a hole in my head.

I’ve tried so many different versions of oven-fried chicken in search of one with the perfect texture and crispness, as well as the “fried” flavor without all of the oil and I have never been really satisfied.  Dredging the chicken in flour (the way you prepare fried chicken) does not work at all — the outside never gets crispy and it has no flavor.  Others use butter, which has a low smoke point and burns easily.  I’ve even tried recipes that used parmesan in the crust — which is really just parmesan-crusted chicken, not oven-fried chicken.

Anyway, long story short, I came across this recipe in my Cook’s Illustrated a few months ago and gave it a try.  It was wonderful — just what I was looking for in flavor and texture.

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with foil and set a cooling rack on the pan.

Crush Melba Toasts into a small crumb mixture.  You don’t want them too fine or you might as well save your effort and use flour.  In a small dish, add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the Melba Toast crumbs and toss well to coat.

Mix eggs, mustard, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne in another small dish. Dredge each piece of chicken in the mustard and egg mixture, then coat it in Melba Toast crumbs.  Be sure to press the Melba Toast crumbs into the chicken so they stick.

Place the chicken on the rack and bake until the chicken coating is deep brown, about 40 minutes.

Melba Toast Oven-Fried Chicken

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 box plain Melba Toast (about 5 ounces), crushed
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 chicken breasts or leg quarters

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line sheet pan with foil and set large flat wire rack over sheet pan.

Drizzle olive oil over Melba Toast crumbs in a shallow dish or pie plate; toss well to coat. Mix eggs, mustard, thyme, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and optional cayenne with a fork in a second shallow dish or pie plate.

Coat chicken with egg and mustard mixture then dredge in Melba Toast crumbs, pressing to coat.  Place the chicken on rack and bake until chicken is deep brown, about 40 minutes.

note: If you own a spray bottle for oil, skip the step of tossing the Melba toast crumbs in oil. Instead, once the chicken is coated with crumbs, spray the pieces evenly with oil.

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