You can call this oven-fried chicken or crunchy baked chicken or breaded chicken or any number of things. I like calling this dish Fake Fried Chicken because I feel like I'm getting away with something sneaky.
Panko is the secret to crunchiness without deep-frying. I've tried everything from straight bread crumbs to melba toasts whizzed in the food processor, and panko comes the closest to giving us the kind of crust that you can actually hear when you bite into it. There's no topping it.
You can also go two ways with this dish. Serve the entire thigh on a bed of wilted greens and you have a perfect mid-week meal. Cut those thighs into bite-sized pieces and you have the perfect party appetizer. I like to set little bowls of honey, honey-mustard, and ketchup nearby for easy dipping.
I like thighs here for their juiciness and rich flavor, but you could certainly go for drumsticks, wings, or even breasts. All of these will cook a little quicker than thighs. Start checking them after 10 minutes and then in 5 minute increments after that until they register 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Fake Fried Chicken
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 8 whole thighs)
1 tablespoon oregano
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
splash of milk or buttermilk
splash of hot sauce (optional)
1 cup panko crumbs
Honey or ketchup for serving
Heat the oven to 425°F. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet.
Remove the thighs from their packaging. If desired, cut into "nugget" bite-sized pieces. Pat dry with a paper towel.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oregano, dijon, salt, and pepper. Add a splash of milk to loosen it a little. Pour the panko crumbs in another small bowl.
Dip each chicken thigh in the egg mixture and gently shake off the extra. Roll the thigh in the panko and set it on the wire rack over the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken thighs.
Bake for 35-40 minutes for whole thighs or 15-20 minutes for bites. When the thighs are finished, the tops should just be starting to turn golden, juices from the thigh should run clear, and the internal temperature should register at least 165°F.
Serve immediately with bowls of honey and ketchup for dipping.
Related: Weekend Meditation: Fear of Frying
(Images: Emma Christensen)