May 26, 2009

Cooking Light's Pan Fried Chicken

When I got my current June issue of Cooking Light magazine, I knew I would have to try the cover recipe pronto. It looks absolutely mouth-watering, and I was intrigued by the mix of spices in the breading. Also, I could definitely use a good recipe for a healthy version of fried chicken.
I did have something completely different planned for tonight's dinner, but I needed to scrap it, anyway. My other recipe used dried and soaked beans, but I totally forgot that I needed to do that last night. Darn dried beans!!! I love that they are so cheap and flavorful, but I hate the soaking time (or lack there of). Oh well, I will get my beans soaking now, so they will be ready for tomorrow night's meal. This chicken recipe was actually slotted for later in the week, but I am excited to try this dish sooner than I anticipated.

I think I will serve my chicken with some leftover pasta salad and a side of veggies. This meal should be perfect summertime fare.

Cooking Light's Pan Fried Chicken
adapted from June 2009 issue

4-5 chicken thighs, skin removed
1/4 cup of canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Remove skin from chicken (if needed), and set aside.

Sift together first 6 ingredients; place mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Sprinkle salt evenly over chicken. Add chicken, one piece at a time, to bag; seal. Shake bag to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour. Place chicken on a cooling rack; place rack in a jelly-roll pan. Reserve remaining flour mixture. Loosely cover chicken; chill 1 1/2 hours.

Take chicken out and let chicken stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Return chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture, shaking bag to coat chicken. Discard excess flour mixture.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 25 minutes or until done, carefully turning every 5 minutes.

Line a clean cooling rack with brown paper bags; arrange chicken in a single layer on bags. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Jen's Notes:
Here are the recipe notes from the magazine:

The key to success with this recipe is even heat. If the oil gets too hot, the chicken may brown too quickly before fully cooking. You can lower the heat, or brown the chicken on the stove top and then cook in a 350° oven until done. If the oil is not hot enough, the chicken will absorb too much of it. Omit spices in the breading, if you prefer.

Also, I think I read that the paper bags are a must. If you line the drain tray with anything else, the oil could get reabsorbed by the chicken. The brown paper bags wick the oil away from the meat.
I needed to change up a couple items from the original recipe, so the version above has some minor changes. Most notably, the original recipe calls for peanut oil and I don't have any. I am substituting canola oil instead.

The Result:
Well, this looked a lot better than it actually tasted. I am a little disappointed! The chicken was bland, bland, bland. I think there were several issues with this recipe that all contributed to the flavor problems of the results.
First, I think that the ratio of spices to flour was way off. The amount of each of the spices needed to be increased to make a bigger impression. Otherwise, it was just flat and boring. Seriously, nothing special. I think if the spices were more pronounced, then this would have been a better recipe.
Another issue was this: fried chicken without skin is just weird. I understand that they were trying to make fried chicken healthier. I also understand the idea of cutting fat and calories by getting rid of the skin. However, I firmly believe that removing the skin, even in a healthy recipe, is a big mistake. The top of the chicken that had direct contact with the pan was very dry. There was just not a buffer from the heat to keep the meat juicy. The underside of the chicken was cooked okay, but the best part of the meat was tasteless and had a 'stick-in-the-throat' type of texture. I think in order to get a brown crust AND keep the chicken moist, the skin is necessary. Maybe some recipes are not meant for a healthy make FRIED CHICKEN !?!?!?!?!?

(PS-I followed the instructions, and monitored the oil carefully, so I am confident I didn't screw it up.) (Could not having peanut oil have made that big of a difference??? My oil kept temp and did not burn, so I can't imagine that it would have mattered.)

Finally, I think that this particular technique is a pain. There are two different rest periods during the cooking process. During the first period, the chicken rests for 1 1/2 hours in the fridge. Okay...why???? Maybe so the breading adheres better, is my guess???? But is that step necessary???? I don't think so. Then there is a second rest period where it rests for an additional 1/2 hour so the chicken can come to room temperature. I understand why a protein item would need to be brought to room temperature before cooking (I usually do that anyway), but two different, long rest periods seemed excessive. I just don't have the patience for that.

Overall, I don't think I even care enough to try and "fix" this I don't think I will be making it again. I am really surprised that a Cooking Light cover recipe would be so underwhelming!!!


claireknightly said...

I think my mailman must have stolen my magazines because I haven't gotten June's Cooking Light or Gourmet!!

jenanderson said...

I was eyeing this recipe too. I can't wait to see what you thought.

Pamela said...

What a disappointment. I was just looking at this one tonight and thinking about trying it next week sometime. I will definitely think about upping the spices for more flavor.