Monday, January 5, 2015

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner - Not My Grandma's Cornflake Chicken

Today, January 4, 2015, would have been Bethe's 61st birthday.  You all know how much I miss her, the sister of my heart.

I have a confession to make:  the recipe for Buttermilk Baked Chicken is a variation of a recipe my grandmother made at least once or twice a month throughout my entire childhood.  I'm not suggesting that the Neely's stole my grandmother's recipe, especially since she got it off the back of a box of Kellogg's cornflake crumbs, but the whole idea of coating chicken with cornflake crumbs and baking until crispy has been around at least fifty years.  I printed the Neely's recipe out a while ago and stuck it into my "to try" pile, because I liked what they did with the buttermilk.  I have come to appreciate the value of a buttermilk soak for chicken that is going to be fried, and I thought it would work equally well on this baked version especially the way the Neelys seasoned the buttermilk with sliced onion, smashed garlic, and some other good stuff.

All this time I thought the old cornflake chicken recipe was kind of kitschy, and it turns out that everybody from Trisha Yearwood to Martha Stewart is proudly preparing the dish before the cameras.  My grandmother's version was simplicity itself - she melted margarine, dipped the chicken in the margarine, then the crumbs, and put the chicken on a baking sheet and into the oven.  When it was done, the cornflakes were buttery and crispy and the chicken was moist and sweet.  When I make it, as I have over the years, I usually marinate the chicken in some Italian dressing, or a combination of melted butter and orange juice, and I also add some herbs to the crumbs.

Clearly I can never leave well enough alone.  I told you I'd tampered with the Neely's recipe, and I wasn't kidding.  I'm making this homey old standby exotic, and no one, not even Martha Stewart, has gone where I'm about to go.

Not My Grandma's Cornflake Chicken

Bobby Deen, Paula's younger son, carved out a specialty cooking zone for himself with "Not My Mama's Meals" by cutting down the fat and calories associated with his mother's brand of southern cooking.  I decided to call this "Not My Grandma's Cornflake Chicken" because my recipe incorporates spices that never saw the inside of my grandmother's pantry. So to start, you will need to whip up a batch of my version of Steven Raichlan's Jamaican Jolt Dry Rub.  You can cut this in half, which is what I do, and store it in a screw top jar in your spice cabinet.

Jamaican Jolt Dry Rub for those with a delicate palate
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup freeze dried chives
2 tablespoons coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all the spice rub ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. 

1 whole cut up chicken, 3 - 4 1/2 pounds (I like to cross cut each breast into two pieces)
Jamaican Jolt Dry Rub, recipe above
1 quart of buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced

1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Granulated garlic
2 cups crushed corn flakes
3/4 cup grated Romano cheese


The night before:  Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with Jamaican Jolt, and place into a baking dish large enough to lay out the chicken in one layer.  Cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day:  Place the onion slices and smashed garlic pieces over the chicken. and season with the salt, pepper, thyme and granulated garlic. Mix together buttermilk, lemon juice, and hot sauce, and pour over all.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or up 12 hours.

About 90 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fit a sheet tray with a wire rack and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix cornflakes and Parmesan cheese together. Season with salt and pepper, and a little more of the Jamaican Jolt.

Remove chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and dredge through the cornflake-Parmesan mixture, pressing to help it adhere. Discard the marinade.

Place on the wire rack-fitted sheet tray.  Lightly spray the tops of the chicken with olive oil cooking spray, and bake for 45 minutes until golden and crisp.

My opinion - very tasty and tender, and the crumb coating is nice and crunchy.  Next time though, I want to try drizzling melted butter instead of spraying with olive oil before baking.

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