Golden Girls’ Southern Not-Fried Chicken

You don’t have to be a fan of the “Golden Girls” — but who isn’t?! — to enjoy recipes inspired by the ’80s hit comedy TV show. Honestly, I was afraid the highly-anticipated book would mostly feature desserts — especially cheesecake — and wouldn’t be the best way to start off eating healthier in the new year. But fear not — those four feisty ladies enjoyed their cheesecake, for sure, but they also were health-conscious seniors, too!

The Golden Girls Cookbook: More Than 90 Delectable Recipes from Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia, by Christopher Styler, features recipes for breakfast and brunch, soups and salads, veggie sides, pastas, meats and desserts, plus a finale focusing on cheesecakes.

Flipping through the book, I was drawn to Blanche’s Southern Not-Fried Chicken. As Styler writes, “Blanche loooves her fried chicken, but she knows that too much of a good thing would make it hard to get into her slim-fit dresses for nickel beer night at the Rusty Anchor. Here’s her solution to the problem of a fried chicken craving — a crunchy-coated ‘fried’ chicken made without chicken skin or scads of frying oil.”

While the recipe calls for bone-in chicken thighs, I had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on hand. It still was quite good. What makes this Southern-style, and different from other oven-fried chicken recipes I’ve tried, is using buttermilk to marinate the chicken for several hours, or overnight. Needing to get dinner on the table the day I planned to make this, I only marinated the chicken for about three hours. The buttermilk flavor came through, but the next time I make this I will plan ahead and marinate it overnight for a stronger flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large bone-in chicken thighs, about 2 pounds (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and reduced the cooking time by about 10 minutes.)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used 1 percent milk plus about a tablespoon of lemon juice to make “homemade” buttermilk.)
  • 6 good dashes hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt (I used Kosher salt.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup toasted panko (Admittedly, I was in a hurry and did not toast mine — the chicken still was crispy!)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Vegetable oil (or olive oil)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Pull the skin off the chicken thighs, if necessary, and trim off any fat. Stir the buttermilk, hot sauce, and salt together in a medium bowl. Roll the chicken thighs in the seasoned buttermilk, cover the bowl, and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to a day. Turn the chicken thighs in the buttermilk marinade when you think about it.
  2. Make a production line: Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet, and place it next to you on the counter. Beat the egg and a tablespoon or so of water in a very shallow bowl until very well blended. Stir the panko and onion powder together in a second shallow bowl or on a plate, and spread the mix out. Remove a thigh from the buttermilk and shake it gently to remove most of the buttermilk. Turn the thigh in the egg until completely coated, hold it over the bowl for a few seconds to let extra egg drip off, and then lay it in the bread crumbs. Turn the thigh in the crumbs and pat the crumbs gently to help them stick. Turn and pat once more on each side. Set the coated thigh on the rack and continue with the rest of the chicken. Let stand 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the center position. When ready to cook, remove the cooling rack from the baking pan, line the pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the chicken pieces on the foil with some room between them. Bake until the chicken is golden brown and reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer at the thickest part away from the bone (or the juices run clear, not pink, when poked with a skewer), about 35 minutes. Let rest 5 or 10 minutes before serving. Delicious at room temperature, too.

With healthy dishes like this one and others, such as Rose’s Farmstead Omelet, Sophia’s Escarole and White Beans, and Dorothy’s For Whom the Stuffed Bell Pepper Tolls, I think a treat like Mr. Ha Ha’s New York-Style Birthday Mini-Cheesecake Cupcakes certainly would fit into a healthy diet!

The Golden Girls Cookbook is available upon request here, or by calling Whitehall Public Library at 412-882-6622.

Golden Girls’ Southern Not-Fried Chicken
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