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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Taste
Chicken Fingers
by LEE GERSTEIN
2003-01-08

This article shared 2456 times since Wed Jan 8, 2003
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94,000,000. That's the number of pounds of chicken served in Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants every year. Knowing that frightening fact, it isn't so surprising that both Domino's and Papa John's Pizza have begun to offer their own versions of fried chicken.

Each of these mediocre pizza chains now offer boneless, breaded meat, but the Papa Chickenstrips are nothing outside of the ordinary. They do, however, get around that nagging urban legend about the drumstick that turns out to be a deep-fried rat. For $4.99, you get six strips and a choice of two dipping sauces. Domino's Buffalo Chicken Kickers cost a dollar more, but you get 10. They come with their own sauces, and are pretty much boneless versions of Domino's already existing Buffalo chicken wings.

While the thought of eating either product is making me gag, maybe it's just because they are both deboned. You see, according to market research, men love nothing more than piling chicken bones up on their plates. Kids and females do not, however, and even find the idea revolting. What about those of us who find the idea of eating any of this revolting?

Don't worry about my intake of fried chicken. I ate a lifetime's supply as a kid, drooling over the bucket in the longest five-minute car ride home ever. By the time we were finally at the house, and the bucket was ripped open, I was in an extra crispy fried frenzy.

'It was a big deal when dad brought home a bucket from the Colonel,' remembers Lilli. 'We used to request it for our birthday dinners. I don't think they sell it by the bucket anymore. And they took down all those spinning buckets that used to tower over the stores.'

Betty's childhood was much the same. 'We used to get Kentucky Fried Chicken all the time when we were kids. My mom would send my dad there when she had no time or inclination to cook for eight people. We would get two buckets of chicken and all the sides. It was always a real treat. I loved the mashed potatoes and gravy, but not if they weren't hot. And I don't think we had a microwave till I was about 21. Now when I think about KFC it just makes me think 'salty.' Maybe that's why people love it so much—it's so damn salty.'

Betty doesn't drop by KFC too often anymore, but she doesn't have to. Her recipe for Oven Fried Chicken is stiff competition for KFC, plus it's a lot less greasy. Unlike the soggy Swanson TV Dinner's that offered oven fried chicken in a pool of orange grease, Betty's take on this classic dish turns out crispy.

First, preheat the oven to 350, and cut up one chicken.

'It tastes extra great,' she instructs, 'if you get that good Whole Foods chicken. Grocery store chicken seems to be very flavorless and bland—The Whole Foods stuff is always juicy and delicious.' Beth recommends that, for extra flavor, or as she says, 'extra extra flavor,' you can marinate the chicken 'in the fridge for a while in some garlic and maybe some paprika and olive oil. I usually cut the breasts in half too, and have two small pieces,' she explains. 'There's extra coating that way, since the coating is the best part.' From here, put two cups of corn flakes in the food processor with two tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper to taste, and blend until the corn flakes are just small bits. Beat two eggs in a bowl with a few cloves of garlic, smashed thru a garlic press. Chop some fresh tarragon or basil and add this to the egg mixture. If you don't have fresh, add dried basil—about a pinch or two, as well as 1/3 cup grated parmiagianno regianno. You can also put some paprika in if you like. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg mixture and then coat them with the corn flake mixture. Place the chicken pieces on a buttered cookie sheet, not a roasting pan, since Beth insists they get crunchier if there are no sides to the pan. Then, go ahead and tempt fate by putting a tiny piece of butter on each piece of chicken. Beth, clearly knowing who her audience is, says, 'If you are not allowed to have butter you can spray them with some olive oil.' Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until done. Her final direction: 'Delicious. Try my oven-fried chicken, and you will love it. I am going to make it tonight cause now I have such a taste for it.'

If you don't have the time or the inclination to make your own, Tyson does all the cooking for you—and for the restaurants you eat at. Their Oven Easy Fried Chicken is a product restaurants buy and then serve to you when you order fried chicken off the menu. It's designed to supposedly get crisp while baked in an oven. As Tyson tells potential clients, 'Your patrons will think you're going all out to give them golden, crispy, juicy fried chicken. But you'll know how easy it really is.'

Sounds easy enough to open your own fine dining establishment. One of the first items on your menu has to be the trademarked Chik Ribs. These new bone-in thigh chicken portions are trimmed to look just like ribs, a concept that seems wrong for so many reasons. 'BBQ-craving patrons can get their hands around lip-smacking Honey BBQ Glazed Chik Ribs,' brag Tyson's. 'Or, let Golden Deep-Fried Breaded Chik Ribs grab hold of your menu when you add your own signature sauces and seasonings. With all of these possibilities, Chik Ribs create handfuls of new reasons to order chicken, already a foodservice favorite.'

Surely, this is enough to make anyone a vegetarian, but if you need one final shove, dig into Tyson's Chicken Breakfast Filets. 'Perfect for popular biscuit sandwiches!' they claim. Fried chicken breakfast sandwiches anyone? 'The Tyson Chicken Breakfast Filet transforms America's favorite protein into an on-trend grab-and-go breakfast item. These small 2.5 oz. whole-muscle breast filets are the ideal size for biscuit sandwiches. They're boneless, skinless, and covered in a popular southern-style breading. And Tyson Chicken Breakfast Filets are fully cooked for your thaw-and-serve convenience.'

Whatever happened to chicken served in buckets, where it belongs? The best fried chicken Alice ever had 'was at some Bible shack down in Charlotte, North Carolina.' She explains that there was no menu, because 'they served one meal a day no exceptions. Fried chicken, a couple sides.' But did they really cook it, or was it Tyson's?

---------------------------------------- See www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com/taste.html for Dining & Food listings.


This article shared 2456 times since Wed Jan 8, 2003
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