Friday, June 5, 2009

Cat Cora's Crispy Fried Chicken

One of my newest cookbook finds is Cat Cora's Cooking From The Hip, and I made her Crispy "Fried" Chicken for dinner the other day. I made the comment on our twitter (follow us on twitter, @ChefBlog) the other day that I felt like it was a good Zehender's substitute, and I realized that to most of the world, that means nothing. So I had some explaining to do!

First, the recipe, and I'll explain a few tweaks I had to make, and one I didn't have to make, but did:


2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup light buttermilk
1 2 1/2 - to 3-pound fryer, cut into pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cornflakes


Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Pour the olive oil into a baking pan large enough to hold the chicken pieces in a single layer without crowding. Using your fingers, rub the oil over the dish so that it's completely but lightly coated.

Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry. In a wide bowl or on a large plate, season the flour with the salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken piece in the flour until it's completely coated. Tap the chicken against the side of the bowl to loosen any excess flour and set the pieces aside. Discard the flour.

Crush the cornflakes by placing them in a big resealable plastic bag, carefully pressing the bag to push out the air. Seal the bag (leaving as little air inside as possible) and crush the flakes using a rolling pin. Pour the crushed flakes into a wide bowl or onto a large plate.

In a bowl large enough to dip the chicken pieces, mix the buttermilk, mustard, cayenne (if using), paprika and sage. Give each floured chicken piece a good buttermilk bath all over, then roll in the crushed flakes.

Arrange the chicken pieces in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, lower the heat to 375° F, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through and crispy. (The juices should run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife.) Serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

As for my tweaks: I honestly didn't notice in the recipe that it says to put the spices into the buttermilk. I thought the recipe went "Dredge in the flour, dip in the buttermilk, the cornflakes, the spices", and I went "Yowza, that's alot of steps!" so I mixed the spices into the flour. Turns out, I was supposed to have put the spices in the buttermilk. So that was the tweak I made that I didn't have to make.

I also didn't have cornflakes, so I used crushed club crackers instead. I can't imagine the difference was enormous, but I'll try it the right way next time, so we'll see.

I also had to tweak the spices, because I found myself strangely out of both paprika AND sage when I went to make it. My Better Homes & Gardens cookbook says Marjoram is a good substitute for paprika, and Cayenne pepper is a good sub for sage, so I subbed. Cat Cora's tip for this recipe is that if it's got to feed kids, go a little light on the spices, and I did - not only because I had to feed a kid, but because I was subbing spices left, right and center. Next time I think I'll spice it up better.

Now, as for the Zehender's reference:

There's a restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan called Zehender's. They serve "authentic" German style chicken dinners. Fried chicken, cottage cheese, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and gravy, butter noodles...trimmings that go on forever! And you can buy it all you can eat, so they will seriously just keep bringing you food for forever.

Now, I don't know that Zehender's would go winning any James Beard awards (sidebar: if you don't know the James Beard awards, I'll put it like this - a James Beard award is to a chef what an Oscar is to an actress), but it's good food, it's a crazy fun place to go, and sometimes, isn't that all that matters?

Cat Cora's Crispy Fried Chicken recipe is a pretty solid stand in for the Zehender's experience. I was really impressed. Although, it loses most of the "crispy" when you store it in the refrigerator overnight, so the leftovers weren't nearly as exciting. Ha!

Check them out online!

Zehender's Restaurant. Their website says they are the largest family owned restaurant in the nation. Who knew?

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