Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sweet 'n Spicy Crunchy Crumb-Coated Chicken

I love a good challenge, so when the folks at Honey Bunches of Oats asked me if I'd like to adapt or create a recipe using their product, I decided to create my own masterpiece.

And this is truly a masterpiece. It better be. I've eaten more than my fair share of it.

Apparently, everyone's mom used some kind of cereal to coat chicken. Except mine. It was never part of her repertoire, but I think it's a pretty great idea. So the first trial batch of cereal-coated chicken was left fairly plain, so I could decide what direction to take next.

Second batch was flavored with spices I use in barbecue sauce, and it included some lemon flavoring to give it a little tartness. I thought barbecue flavors would go well with the slight sweetness from the cereal. The result was good, but not perfect. Something was missing.

The final piece of the puzzle was cumin. It doesn't make this taste like Mexican chicken, but the cumin adds a slightly smoky savoriness that rounded out all the other flavors perfectly.

Oh, but that's not all. I used this same breading on pork, which was very good, by the way. But then I decided I liked it better on chicken. So I made more chicken.

But of course, part of being a blogger is taking photos of the food. Oops, we ate it all before I got photos. I made it again and the lighting was terrible. I took pictures but they looked dull. Which isn't so bad for tomato soup, but not so great for crunchy chicken.

Finally, the last batch (because I'm out of cereal now!) was made and photographed and eaten. I served it as an entree with rice mixed with spinach and a little lime, and leftovers made terrific sandwiches with a lettuce, tomato, and a little bit of mayonnaise.

This would also work well with tomato sauce and some melted cheese on top, like a chicken parmesan. Or sliced and served on a salad. Or stuffed into a tortilla and topped with salsa and guacamole. It's good hot or cold. Trust me, I know. I might have snuck a little nibble as a late-night snack.

But I'm still not tired of eating it. It's that good.

Chicken and rice ... so nice!

When you make this, consider your paprika. This includes both smoked and regular paprika, but the regular could be sweet paprika, sharp paprika, or half-sharp. The sharpness refers to the level of spiciness - paprika is ground peppers, after all. I found that the half-sharp gave it a nice little hint heat without making it a super-spicy dish. But use what you like - or what you have.

If you want to amp up the heat, you could add a little cayenne pepper. Start with 1/4 teaspoon, and add more if you think you need it.

I used the plan Honey Bunches of Oats cereal for this recipe, but I'm sure it would also work with the version with almonds.

Sweet 'n Spicy Crunchy Crumb Coated Chicken

For the crumb mix:
Stack 'o Crunchy Chicken
4 cups Honey Bunches of Oats cereal
2 teaspoons paprika (I used half-sharp, but sweet is fine)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon True Lemon or Fruit Fresh
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
For the chicken:
3-4 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all purpose flour (more, as needed)
1 large egg
Olive oil or vegetable oil, for cooking

To make the crumb mix
Combine all of the ingredients in your food processor and pulse until you have crumbs - but don't process too much. You want crumbs, not flour.

Transfer the crumbs to a suitable storage container. This makes enough for several batches of chicken, but since all the ingredients are dry, it stores well between uses.

To make the chicken:
You can see how crunchy it is!
If the chicken breasts are large, cut them in half. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time in a plastic bag. Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound the breasts to an even thickness. You can make them a little thinner, if you like, but don't keep pounding until you've shredded them.

Yes, I know it's fun to whap them, but you have to have at least a little restraint. Flatten all the chicken breasts in the same way.

Set up a breading station with three flat bowls or deep plates, with flour in one, the egg in another, and about a cup of the crumb mix in the third. You can always add more, if needed.

Add about 2 tablespoons of water to the egg and beat lightly, just to combine. If you need to coat 4 larger chicken breasts, you might need a second egg, but start with one, You can crack another one later if you really need it.

Coat each piece of chicken in the flour first, then dip in the egg, then coat with the crumbs. As you finish coating the pieces, you can place them on a wire rack or baking sheet.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan on medium heat. Or, if you have a lot of chicken and don't want to cook in batches, use two pans. When the oil is hot - but not smoking - add the pieces of chicken to the pan.

See those crumbs? Good snackin'!
Cook the chicken on one side until the coating is nicely browned, then flip and cook on the second side. If you need to add more oil, do so. The chicken shouldn't be swimming in oil, but you need a little oil to get the right browning.

When both sides are nicely browned, check the chicken for doneness - you can use a thermometer or simply cut a slit in a piece and peek inside. The temperature should be 160 degrees and it should be barely pink.

If the chicken isn't cooked through, lower the heat a bit - you don't want it over-browned - and continue cooking, flipping the chicken over as needed.

Serve hot, at room temperature, or even cold.

Thanks to Honey Bunches of Oats for sponsoring this post. For more about the cereal, you can find them on Facebook (@HoneyBunchesofOats) Twitter (@HBOats) and Instagram (@HBOats).
Sweet 'n Spicy Crunchy Crumb Coated Chicken