The other day, I rendered a fresh batch of lard and, by the same token, inherited a bunch of delicious crispy lardons. Since I was still doing keto at the time, it turned out to be a real blessing for me and I started sprinkling said lardons on basically everything I ate.
Their flavor reminded me of something… something familiar… some flavor from a distant past that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. For days, I racked my brains, trying to pinpoint the source of this perplexing gustatory memory.
And then it hit me: their flavor reminded me of one of my former favorite treats in the whole wide world: Kentucky Fried Chicken. Something that I haven’t had in years, to the point that I’d almost forgotten that it even existed, but used to love SO much when I was a kid. Oh yeah! If you wanted to treat me to the ultimate delicacy back then, KFC was the way to go. For years, it has been on the menu on my birthday, at my request of course. I even remember a year when my mom had successfully talked me out of trick-or-treating (she absolutely, positively despises Halloween so she was very happy to see me skip it) in exchange for dinner at KFC.
That realization made, I knew I had to use my tasty lardons to create some sort of fried chicken. I didn’t want to actually fry it, though, as I’m not a huge fan of deep frying. I find it’s way too messy and a tad too risky for my liking.
Besides, I figured the lardons would make the “breading” so fatty and tasty that frying the chicken would be completely unnecessary. And I was right! This Oven Baked “Fried” Chicken turned out just as good as I’d imagined, if not better. That skin got nicely crispy and super tasty, even tastier than the real thing, thanks to the addition of almonds.
And the chicken itself was crazy tender and juicy.
The secret to super moist and tasty fried chicken is to brine the meat first. It’s a well known fact that buttermilk does a tremendous job at that, but I’d recently read that whey is also a very good option, if you can get your hands on it. Having just made a batch of Fresh Farmer’s Cheese, I was lucky enough to have some on hand and this was the perfect occasion for me to put it to the test. It worked perfectly!
Brining is extremely easy and makes a world of difference. Trust me, you should not skip that step. Simply place the drumsticks, whey (or buttermilk) and salt into a non-reactive container with fitting lid or re-sealable plastic bag and place that in the refrigerator to brine for 24 to 48 hours.
After that time, remove the drumsticks from the brine, rinse and pat them real dry.
To help make that skin extra crispy, you could even put the drumsticks back in the refrigerator uncovered until the next day.
When you are ready to bake your chicken, preheat your oven to 375°F and prepare your dipping stations.
For the first one, you’ll want to mix some tapioca starch, dried oregano, black pepper, paprika, salt, garlic and onion powder, and ground chipotle pepper (or cayenne if you don’t have chipotle) and mix well with a flat whisk until well combined.
Transfer that seasoned flour to a large re-sealable bag and set aside.
For the second dipping station, whisk together the egg and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce until well combined and slightly frothy.
Lastly, to make the final breading, add the lardons and sliced almonds to a small food processor and process on pulse until the mixture kinda resembles wet coarse sand, or fine gravel.
Transfer that mixture to a shallow bowl. If you find that your breading is a bit too sticky and wet, you can delicately mix in a few tablespoons of tapioca starch with your fingertips.
Now place all the pieces of chicken in the bag containing the tapioca starch mixture and move them around until they are completely coated.
Then, one by one, remove the drumsticks from the bag, taking care to shake off any excess flour
Dip the drumsticks in the Frank’s Red Hot until they get completely covered.
Finally, place the chicken in the bowl that contains the breading and cover it as good as you can by lightly pressing the mixture against the meat with your fingers to help it adhere.
Place the breaded drumstick in a broiler pan and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
Bake in a 375°F oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.
Serve this without delay, as this chicken is at its best right after it comes out of the oven. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reheat all that well. It tends to get a little soggy. Unless maybe one was to reheat it in the oven, but then it may become overly dry.
If by some miracle you do end up generating leftovers, I think you’d be better off eating it cold.
Just like I used to do with my leftover KFC…
- ½ cup tapioca flour
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp freshly cracked Himalayan salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp Himalayan salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp chipotle powder
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup Frank's Red Hot
- Place the drumsticks, whey (or buttermilk) and salt in a non-reactive container with fitting lid or re-sealable plastic bag and place in the refrigerator to brine for 24 to 48 hours.
- Remove the drumsticks from the brine, rinse and pat them real dry.
- Preheat your oven to 375F and prepare your dipping stations.
- For the first one, mix tapioca starch, dried oregano, black pepper, paprika, salt, garlic and onion powder, and ground chipotle pepper (use cayenne if you don’t have chipotle) and mix well with a flat whisk until well combined. Transfer to a large re-sealable bag and set aside.
- For the second dipping station, whisk together the egg and Frank’s Red Hot until combined and slightly frothy.
- Finally, for the third station, add the crispy lardons and sliced almonds to a small food processor and process on pulse until the mixture resembles wet coarse sand.
- Transfer to a shallow bowl. If you find the mixture to be too sticky and wet, delicately mix in a few tablespoons of tapioca starch with your fingers.
- Place the drumsticks in the bag containing the tapioca starch mixture and move them around until they are completely coated. One by one, remove the drumsticks from the bag, taking care to shake off the excess flour, and dip in the Franks Red Hot until completely covered.
- Place that drumstick in the bowl that contains the almond coating and cover it by lightly pressing the mixture against the drumstick with your fingers.
- Place the breaded drumstick in a broiler pan and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
- Bake in a 375F oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.