Saturday, June 21, 2014

Picnic Chicken aka Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken

I got this recipe for 'mustard baked chicken' from an article in the New York Times and it makes for great, crunchy chicken perfect for picnics. Of course you may want to make it for dinner at home too, and no doubt your family will be asking you to do so once they've tasted it.

Julian's Crispy Mustard Chicken
Indeed, as shown above, we had this dinner at home when it was still too chilly for an outdoor meal. But we were in the mood and the food tasted as good as it would have on a picnic lawn. I don't call it 'baked mustard chicken' as great food writer Laurie Colwin did when she originally published it. That rather implies it has a mustard taste, and it really does not. The technique uses a long baking time which keeps the breadcrumb coated skin crisp while the meat stays moist and tender and is well cooked all the way through to the bone. Her original version was written out in a short paragraph, casually instructing the home cook to coat the chicken with mustard, garlic, a little thyme, and a pinch of cinnamon. The NYTimes adapted it and since then I've modified it slightly too. But that doesn't mean you need to follow the exacting measurements below. Once you make it a time or two, you will simply toss the items together and end up with a delicious oven-fried chicken dinner.

Selecting the Chicken and Timing: I've used several chicken cuts for this meal. The original recipe calls for chicken quarters (leg/thigh or wing/breast combos). This works well and takes about 2 hours to cook. If it's just us guys, we tend to prefer legs and wings, and as shown in these photos, that's what I used here. These smaller pieces reduced the cooking time to about 1 1/2 hours. If you use a traditional cut up fryer, where the legs and wings are separated, then consider starting the breasts and thighs first, and one half hour later, adding the remaining pieces to the oven.

2 to 3 pounds chicken, cut into pieces
1 quart buttermilk
3/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and black pepper
2 cups dry unseasoned Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon sweet paprika, or as needed
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

12-24 hours in advance, place the cleaned chicken in a zippered storage back and add the buttermilk. Refrigerate, turning occasionally to make sure the chicken is all coated. When ready to prepare, remove from the refrigerator and discard the buttermilk and shake off the chicken.

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil. Add a wire rack and spray it with food release (Pam) or vegetable oil.

Ready for Baking
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine mustard, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place bread crumbs in another large bowl. (Panko style crumbs are preferred and will give you a crisper chicken.)

Working in batches, coat chicken quarters on all sides with mustard mixture. Shake off excess mustard, then coat completely with bread crumbs. Arrange in a single layer in a large on the prepared rack.

Dust the chicken with paprika and scatter butter pieces on top. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and crispy, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Do not overcrowd the rack for optimal crunchiness. (Depending on the oven, the size of the rack(s) and the size of the chicken pieces, baking time may be as long as 2 1/2 hours.) Serve hot or at room temperature. Do not refrigerate or chill before serving.

Julian's Favorite Picnic Chicken

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