I am so excited to tell you guys about today’s recipe. It is bonkers. In a good way.
Fried chicken. It’s one of America’s most American foods. People go nuts for it. People get downright impassioned about it, too…always debating who has the best version or recipe. Me? Well, I’m actually not a huge fan.
I know. I’m weird. I don’t outright DISLIKE it, per say, but I definitely wouldn’t choose it over other American classics, like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and pizza. They all beat out fried chicken in my world. Strangely, though, I LOVE chicken tenders or nuggets. Maybe because they are slightly lower maintenance to make and eat? Maybe it’s my 6-year-old self emerging every now and then? Just like those rare moments when all I want (no, NEED) is the mac and cheese out of a blue box with powdered cheese followed by approximately three bowls of rainbow sherbet. Childhood. The best.
With Independence Day happening this weekend and in the general spirit of ‘Merica, I am biting the bullet and making fried chicken to celebrate. Except I’m not. I’m “oven frying” this chicken. I know, so annoying. Why do we even bother calling it oven FRIED? Nothing oven fried is ever as good as the actual deep-fried version of itself. THIS chicken, however, begs you to rethink your oven-fried prejudices. This chicken has got it goin’ on. Even though it’s not technically fried.
It’s crispy and packed with flavor. The chicken itself is moist (sorry) and juicy, thanks in part to an awesome dill pickle inspired brine. Dill pickles have always been one of my most favorite munches/garnishes/condiments. I figured that if I was going to attempt a version of “fried” chicken at home, I may as well infuse it with some of that incredible dill pickle flavor. SO GOOD.
And the breading! Swoon! It’s crunchy, golden, and absolutely delicious. Sure, it’s not exactly the same TEXTURE as fried chicken breading, but it definitely tastes good and doesn’t require me to haul out a vat of hot oil. And that’s pretty darn awesome in my book.
I like to serve this chicken with a spicy sesame honey drizzled (poured?) over top. As you can see from the pictures, I’m generous with the honey. I want to swim in it, it’s so good. It’s my little twist on an American classic, if you will.
Along those same lines, we’re working with a dill pickle brine here. If there was ever a step I could recommend you don’t skip, it would be to brine this chicken. Even if you opt for your own brine recipe, just BRINE THE DAMN CHICKEN. It is the game changer. It ensures that the meat stays juicy and tender and glorious throughout the baking process. There’s not much worse than dried out chicken, am I right? I know I am.
Another bonus? Because there is no actual frying involved, this is the perfect picnic chicken for your July 4th celebration. Brine a big batch of chicken thighs and then coat in the breading and bake. So easy. Still so impressive.
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup kosher salt
⅓ cup sugar
1 bunch fresh dill (about ¾ cup)
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 3 lbs)
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons hot sauce
3 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1 cup regular unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
¼ cup canola oil
Salt and pepper
½ cup honey
3 teaspoons hot sauce (or more, to taste)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (I like a mix of white and black, but you can use all one kind)
Toast mustard and coriander seeds in a dry saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved and then remove the brine from the heat. Add the dill and 4 cups of cold water. Allow to cool completely.
Submerge the chicken in the brine and chill for 3 hours.
Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Keep cold until ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and hot sauce in a shallow bowl. Whisk together the two types of breadcrumbs, paprika, Cajun seasoning, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in another bowl. Drizzle the oil into the mixture, mixing well with a fork until everything is evenly coated. You want it to look kind of wet and crumbly.
Working in batches, coat the chicken thighs with the buttermilk mixture and then in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere the coating. Transfer the breaded chicken thighs to the prepared baking sheet, leaving a couple inches of space in between each one.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the coating is golden brown and crispy.
To a small saucepan, add the honey and hot sauce. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and then remove from the heat. Stir in the toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. Keep warm until ready to serve. Serve the chicken drizzled with the warm honey.
Adapted from here.