Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tarragon-Buttermilk Baked Chicken

File this one under "delicious." It's crispy, flavorful and everything you've come to know as decadent and not-so-healthy—only it's not! Skinless chicken is marinated in light buttermilk, which, at 120 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving, is healthier than many people think. And breadcrumbs, not deep frying, gives it a crispy exterior. Tarragon, both in the coating and in the marinade, gives it a fresh flavor and a squeeze of lemon upon serving brightens the flavors even more. This recipe requires some forethought, as the chicken should marinate overnight, but the total active time is very minimal. While the chicken roasts, you can prep the rest of your dinner or, do as I did, and roast vegetables (like potatoes and asparagus) in the oven alongside the chicken.

Tarragon-Buttermilk Baked Chicken
(Serves 4)

1 qt. light buttermilk
1 chicken, skin-removed and cut in 8 pieces (or equivalent amount of skinless, bone-in chicken)
1 bunch fresh tarragon (leave half on stem, finely chop the remainder)
2 cups panko (or other unseasoned breadcrumbs)
salt and pepper
1 lemon, cut in wedges

1. The evening before serving, place chicken in a single layer in a dish. Take half the tarragon, leave on the stem, but rub between your hands to bruise the leaves and release their scent. Place this in the dish around the chicken along with pepper as desired. Add buttermilk to cover and ensure that all sides of the chicken are exposed to the buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 450°F and prepare the breading. In a clean dish or plastic bag, combine the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and the chopped tarragon.
3. Before coating chicken, wipe off excess marinade with a paper towel, leaving just enough for coating to adhere to. Either press into mixture or shake in the bag with the coating. Place pieces in a baking dish in a single layer, leaving space between them for air to circulate. If you want, place a rack in the baking dish first so that the bottoms of the pieces crisp during cooking.
4. Roast the chicken at 450°F for 10 to 15 minutes to brown the coating. Then turn the oven down to 375°F for the remainder of the cooking time (about 20-30 minutes more).
5. Serve with the lemon wedges.