If we are what we eat, then America might be a nation of chickens.
On average, consumers say they eat chicken five times in a two-week period, according to a 2006 National Chicken Council survey. Other research finds that fried chicken has been the fastest-growing fast-food menu item over the past decade.
No doubt it's popular, but fried chicken is far from healthful. A five-piece order of McDonald's Chicken Selects contains 630 calories and 33 grams of fat.
A more nutritious alternative is "un-frying" breaded chicken in the oven, but it can be tricky to find a method and recipe that mimics fried chicken.
I experimented with several recipes, then mixed and matched some of the tips and ingredients to come up with "un-fried" chicken that made my junk-food-loving taste buds happy.
My version is based on a recipe by Rosie Daley, former chef to Oprah Winfrey. Her breading was fantastic, but it wouldn't stick well to the chicken with the yogurt coating she suggested.
I tried some tips from The Joy of Cooking and then found a Food Network recipe that called for brushing the chicken with a mixture of light mayonnaise and Dijon mustard before breading it. That worked like a charm with Daley's breading.
You can use this breading and baking method on bone-in chicken, but I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts here because they're the leanest.
A serving of these "un-fried" chicken fingers contains 369 calories and 11 grams of fat. If you eat these instead of Chicken Selects, you'll save enough calories and grams of fat to get a small order of McDonald's fries sometime when you're really craving those.
`Un-Fried' Chicken Fingers
2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Set a rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spray the rack generously with cooking spray.
Put the chicken in a large bowl of ice water. Mix the mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl. Set both bowls aside.
Put the bread crumbs, flour and seasonings in a pie plate and combine well.
One at a time, remove the chicken breasts from the ice water and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off fat. Between two sheets of waxed paper, pound the chicken breast with a mallet or rolling pin until it is about 1/3 inch thick. Cut the chicken into strips.
Brush the mayonnaise/mustard mixture on each piece of chicken until coated thoroughly, then transfer the chicken to the pie plate and bread each piece. Put the chicken on the prepared rack and spray each piece lightly with cooking spray. Repeat process with remaining chicken breasts.
Place the baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the coating crisps and browns and an instant-read thermometer reads 170 degrees.
Serve with barbecue sauce or another favorite dipping sauce.
Per serving: 369 calories, 11 grams fat, 44 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 975 milligrams sodium
Recipe analysis provided by the Wichita Eagle.