I grew up watching my mom prepare dinner every night, but I did not learn how to cook myself until college. As a junior, I moved out of the dorms, and into a studio apartment with a bare-bones, 1950’s kitchen. For the first time in two years, I escaped mediocre campus food, and regained control over what I ate by cooking. Despite my many mistakes, that kitchen illuminated me. One of the first recipes that I learned to cook was akin to oven fried chicken. It was perfect for me: inexpensive, simple, and satisfying. I found the recipe in Family Circle magazine in a doctor’s waiting room. I would dip chicken drumsticks in beaten egg, followed by cornflake crumbs spiked with cayenne pepper. I would then spray them lightly with cooking spray to help them brown, and roast them on a sheet pan. I would roast a whole package of Perdue chicken legs in this style, and then keep them in my refrigerator, eating them throughout the week. Cooking was shockingly fun to me, and it vastly improved the quality of my life. These types of meals were liberating for me.
When I found this recipe within the depths of the internet a few weeks ago, it immediately brought me nostalgically back to that Family Circle recipe. Deviled chicken legs are simply a classier version of the crispy chicken legs I made in college. They reconcile the functional purpose and fun of the original recipe with my evolved preferences for higher quality ingredients. First of all, these days I buy my chicken at Whole Foods, instead of Perdue chicken from Safeway. Call me a snob, but Whole Foods’ chicken tastes so much better. Instead of beaten egg, the chicken is smothered in Dijon mustard for punchier flavor. Cornflake crumbs are replaced by a combination of panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan, and then tossed with melted butter (in lieu of processed cooking spray). I decided to remove the skin from the chicken to make a little healthier, and I didn’t miss it. Served with a pile of wilted chard, this is a throwback to my collegiate culinary self, updated for my 30 year old life style. It was fun to make, and the scent of that cheesy panko crust made the house so inviting. Leftovers were also tasty, and this is the type of dish that is great cold. The quantities below are easily adjustable as long as you maintain the ratio of cheese, panko, and cayenne. Despite the cayenne pepper, this dish is tastes robust, rather than reading as spicy or hot.
Deviled Chicken Drumsticks (slightly adapted from Epicurious)
- 6 chicken drumsticks (optional: skin removed)
- About 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil, and coat with oil or butter.
Pat chicken dry, then toss with mustard until evenly coated.
In a wide, shallow dish, stir together panko, cheese, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with butter and toss the crumbs with the butter to coat them evenly.
Dredge each drumstick in crumb mixture to coat, then arrange, without crowding, on your prepared sheet pan. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
January 6, 2015