Al Dente: Not Southern, Not Fried, Still Chicken

Chicken, my friends, is a pure and holy thing. Like I’ve said before it’s lego that you can eat.

Well, lego you can eat COMFORTABLY, anyway.

And it’s versatile as all hell. It’s also delicious fried and not delicious friend as I just typed.

‘I love you, delicious friend.’

Because that’s not creepy at all…

Anyway, it’s also delicious fried. Which is both a good thing and a very, very bad one. Here’s why:

The good thing is, well, it’s delicious and delicious is good. The bad thing is that fried food, especially when you eat vast amounts of it, is like your old Geology folder.

You’re really confused. Don’t worry, the delicious batter-y of understanding will shortly be upon you. You see, I did Geology at school. I was hilariously bad at it. Not because it’s difficult.

Okay, not just because it’s difficult.

But because I was an idiot and decided I could do it at A Level without having done the GCSE. I really couldn’t, and by the end of my two years in 6th Form I had a mullet and a vast red folder filled with hurriedly written and often endearingly profane notes.

 

(Random aside; the best lecture notes I ever, ever took were in a lecture about postmodernism. I had been at University three weeks. I no longer had the mullet. My neck was really cold. My notes gradually ramp up in size until there’s one page that has this phrase:

HISTORIOGRAPHIC META FICTION

Written in the middle, circled and with arrows pointing to it spelling out:

WHAT THE FUCK DOES THIS MEAN?!!!!

I ended up getting a Masters degree in English literature. I’m still not entirely sure what it means. But that page of notes does make me smile.)

 

I held onto that folder for years, despite it doing nothing but getting in the way, weighing me down and reminding me of something I had long since finished.

Or, you might say, digested.

See? Liam Neeson knows;

Fried food. It’s delicious but doesn’t deserve all your time. Like Geology. Unless you’re a Geology professor. Or a fry cook.

Anyway!

I love fried chicken and this recipe, from a now defunct Weight Watchers cookbook is almost like it. I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s just like it, because it really isn’t. But, it is ridiculously easy to make, healthy as a healthy thing that’s just done some jumping jacks and tastes great. So, Victor! Bring forth the edible lego and it’s amazing friends!

So, we have:

-Chicken-Usual deal, defrost it first.

-Pepper

-Parmesan

-Red Chilli

-Onion Powder

-Sweet Paprika

-An enticing and mysterious tub. Mysterious! Enticing! Filled with polenta!

-An Egg!

 

So, here’s what you do;

-Take two bowls.

-Crack the egg in one.

-Put, say, four tablespoons of polenta in the other.

-Grate as much parmesan as you want in there.

-Add the spices.

 

A quick word about spice deployment. In my experience, spice deployment is a precision art. If you don’t add enough, you don’t get any of the taste. If you accidentally leave the top off the red pepper flakes and shake them over the batter for a dish then, well, your tongue will not speak to you for a day or so.

So, as a good rule of thumb, go for a teaspoon of each. That will look just a little bit scary, like you’re some kind of spice outlaw, on a steel horse you ride and so on. It is in fact, not really very much at all, especially if you’re going to spread it across more than two chicken breasts. Basically, go with what makes you comfortable, then maybe push it a teeny bit, just for fun.

So, you should have a bowl that looks like this:

And a bowl that looks like this:

 

Grab a chopping board and chop your chicken. Lengthways, widthways, whatever works. Regardless, have somewhere to put it. This is really important I didn’t the first time, which is why it somehow looks a little panicky in this shot.

Another bowl is a great plan, then you can get a production line going. In fact, do that. Wash your hands, go put your chopped chicken in a bowl, wash your hands again and lay the rest of your surface out like this:

-Chicken

-Wet bowl

-Dry bowl

-Oven tray

Around now it’s a really good idea to bring the oven up to 200 degrees, the magical temperature by the way.

Once that’s done, pick a hand. This hand? Is going to get messy. This is the hand that you’re going to pick the chicken up with, roll it around in the egg mixture and then release over the dry mixture. Do not get the wet hand in the dry mixture.

DO NOT get the wet hand in the dry mixture.

Know why it was Edward Scissorhands and not Edward Lumps of Polenta and Egg Hands?

Because Edward didn’t get his wet hand in the dry mixture. That’s why.

That and the fact he had scissors for hands.

Your other hand is your dry hand. This is going to be used to do one thing, one of two ways. The thing is this; cover the wet chicken with the dry coating. There are two ways to do the thing; with your hand which, rapidly, will cease being your dry hand or shaking the wet chicken (Yes I’m giggling too) around in the dry bowl to get it covered. This is surprisingly effective, and sounds slightly funny so go with that second option.

Then, wash your hands. Hot water, soap, whole bit.

Then, lay the chicken out like this:

And throw it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. This?

May even be done in th-No I’m sorry I can’t even type that with a straight face. Bless it, little root tuber-y fella. One day..

When the chicken comes out, it looks like this:


I did it with sweet potato strips there but it’ll go with pretty much anything. If you like your chicken spicy, ramp up the spice content. Don’t like it spicy, just the polenta and salt and pepper will do. Other stuff that works really well includes:

-Panko. The coating that has a name almost as fun to say as ‘shake the wet chicken’

-Breadcrumbs. Not bread croutons. Trust me.

-Drop the chicken in buttermilk instead of egg. Gets a better coating.

 

One last thing; every single time you handle raw meat, especially raw chicken, wash your hands. If you’re slightly annoyed by how often you’re doing it? You’re doing it the right amount.

 

Now, go make this, it’s great and versatile too. I’m still working out ways to do it and I’ve not got it right yet so have fun, play with your food. But do eat it as well, because this isn’t Northern, or fried but it is delicious.

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