Summer picnics. Specifically, chicken recipes for eating out is what people have asked me for. I agree that there is something special about sitting on the beach, or on the deck, or anywhere at a picnic site, and opening a container full of freshly cooked chicken. . If it can be eaten with your fingers, it is picnic food. Remember to bring plenty of towels or a paper towel roll.
It means wings, drumsticks or thighs. Sometimes I ask the butcher to cut the thighs in half, which makes the meal easier, and of course you can do the same with pieces of breast. If you’re only serving loads of white meat, then chicken fingers might work (although I prefer my fingers made with boneless thigh strips).
So today we’re going to go light on the story and heavy on the recipes. First off, I’ll give you instructions for my all-time favorite oven-fried chicken, best done in a cast iron skillet, but it also works in a baking sheet. I have given this recipe to many friends, some of whom have started to call it Gail’s Fried Chicken. But the credit actually goes to Judy Hesser, mother of food writer Amanda Hesser, who wrote about it in her excellent culinary memoir, “Cooking for Mr. Latte”.
Judy Hesser’s Oven Fried Chicken
3 tablespoons sea salt (divided, plus more for serving)
8 chicken thighs with bone and skin (organic or natural)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (plus more for serving)
In the morning, mix 2 tablespoons of salt and about a cup of lukewarm water in a large bowl or container; stir to dissolve the salt. Add the chicken to the bowl and cover with very cold water and add a tray of ice cubes; stir with your hand to disperse them and refrigerate in the refrigerator until dinner time.
Preheat your oven to 400 ° F and take the chicken out of the refrigerator. Dry completely with paper towels. Put the butter in two 12-inch roasting pans or cast-iron pans (large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer) and place the pans in the oven.
In a 1 gallon freezer bag, pour the flour, remaining 1 tbsp of salt and pepper. Shake it well and add the chicken pieces two at a time and shake them until well coated. As you take them out of the bag, shake them vigorously – this is vital – you don’t want a gummy coating. Line them up on a plate and repeat with the rest.
Place the chicken pieces in the skillet, skin side down, and fry in the oven until golden brown and crisp at the bottom, about 40 minutes (this sometimes takes up to an hour). Do not turn them over until this happens. Using a thin spatula, scrape them from the pan and turn them over; cook the other side until the bottom is golden, which will take less time, about 20 minutes. Take the pieces out of the oven at the end of cooking and place them on a plate covered with absorbent paper. Just before serving, grind fresh pepper on top and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
This one is from Food52’s ‘A New Way to Dinner’ cookbook and it’s also popular with my friends, especially the little ones. The original recipe calls for the traditional flour-egg-bread crumb blend, but here I’m using a trick learned from Alexandra Stafford (whose peasant bread has featured in this column several times over the past decade) .
Instead of using three bowls for assembly, you can reduce it to two by mixing the flour with the eggs and a little water. This is a great technique to use when breading just about any food – saves you time and a bowl!
If you want to prepare your chicken fingers ahead of time, you can. Store them in the refrigerator, then reheat them on a foil-lined baking sheet at 300 ° F, uncovered, until heated through. Then you can wrap them in foil and they are ready to travel. They are delicious served with the special sauce included in the recipe.
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut lengthwise into 1 inch strips or 2 lbs chicken fillets
3⁄4 cup grated Parmesan
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp each: Dijon mustard and ketchup
a few dashes of favorite hot sauce (I like the Piri Piri, a Portuguese sauce)
Set your oven to 450 ° F. Combine the eggs, flour and water in a large bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Combine the panko and Parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl. Prepare a plate for cooking the chicken. Place the chicken strips in the bowl with the egg mixture. Toss to coat, then transfer a few at a time to the panko-parmesan pan. Coat the crumbs, pressing them to adhere, then transfer to the clean baking sheet. At this point, the breaded chicken strips can be covered and refrigerated for up to a day.
Coat a rimmed baking sheet with neutral oil (about a teaspoon) and add the 2 tablespoons of butter. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes or until the butter has finished frothing and starting to brown. Remove the pan from the oven and gently place the chicken strips on the baking sheets. Cook 10 minutes, until the bases are golden and crispy. Use tongs to turn them over and cook for another 10 minutes, or until both sides are evenly browned and the chicken is cooked through. Let cool briefly then serve with a special sauce: In a small mixing bowl, combine the mayo, mustard, ketchup and hot sauce to taste.
Here is another recipe that I am often asked. I’ve had it for so long, can’t remember where I got it, but I know I’ve adapted it over the years. It’s especially popular with teenagers – I remember serving it to a crowd and a 14 year old boy ate the whole platter!
My tarragon chicken wings
3 lbs chicken wings, cut off and tips discarded
2 to 3 tablespoons of neutral cooking oil
1 tablespoon seasoned salt (preferred by Lawry)
Wash and dry the chicken wings and place them on a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and add the wings to the bowl; toss until evenly coated, then return to oiled baking sheet. Bake in preheated 425 ° F oven for 20 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until crispy. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold.
It seems that chicken drumsticks are still popular. They are relatively inexpensive and very easy to eat. You can make any of the following three recipes with chicken thighs if you prefer, but there is something “handy” about eating chicken thigh outdoors. Two of them require a marinade, so you need to plan ahead.
Roasted chicken thighs with mustard and thyme
20 chicken drumsticks (6 lb)
3 large shallots, finely chopped
1 cup each: grainy Dijon mustard and creamy Dijon mustard
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
Mix the shallots with the mustards, oil and wine; add salt and pepper to taste. Place chicken on a baking sheet lined with foil; drizzle with mustard mixture and toss to coat. Add the fresh thyme and mix again; roast in preheated 375 ° F oven for one hour. Transfer to a serving bowl and scrape the remaining sauce from the drumsticks; mix again and serve hot or at room temperature.
Baked ginger chicken drumsticks
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
Use a teaspoon to scrape the skin off the ginger, then place the ginger and garlic in a food processor and blend until you get a thick paste. Add soy sauce, oil, lemon juice, mustard and sugar and pulse again to mix well. Place chicken in shallow container or ziplock bag and scrape marinade on top; mash to cover and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours. Preheat the oven to 355 ° F and remove the chicken from the container. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Increase the heat to 425 ° F and cook the drumsticks for another 15 minutes until golden brown and charred. Serve hot or warm or at room temperature, with plenty of towels.
Unfortunately I cannot locate the source for the following chicken recipe which is a shame as it is so good someone deserves the credit. I’ve been doing it for years, that’s a lot, which is good, because everyone I serve it to eats a lot! Four pounds of chicken might seem like a lot, but it’s fine served hot from the oven, at room temperature, or cold. In other words, enjoy the leftovers! The next time you need to bring something to a potluck, remember this dish.
½ cup of good quality soy sauce
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
4 lbs of chicken thighs and thighs
Place all ingredients except olive oil, salt and pepper and chicken in the bowl of a blender. Puree for 30 seconds at high power; with the engine running, slowly add the oil. Season well with salt and pepper and pour the marinade over the chicken. Place in a covered container and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. To cook, preheat the oven to 400 ° F and arrange the chicken pieces on a lined baking sheet, in a single layer. Roast for 40-45 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through.