Food + Wine

Faux Fried Chicken and Watching the Bandwagon Pass Me By

I love my wheat.  I love my gluten.  I eat it every single day of my life.  I actually have a jar of just gluten in my cupboard.  I use it to make my sourdough bread every week so I can have a big slice of it every day for breakfast.  Gluten itself is not a bad thing, it’s not saturated fat or MSG or high fructose corn syrup, it’s a protein.  It’s what makes our pizza dough stretch, and our bread taste like bread instead of sandpaper.  I bet that a lot of people may not know exactly what gluten is.  (This, and the following statements obviously excludes those people with Celiac disease, who eliminate gluten because they simply have no choice.)  I would venture to say that many people who are following a gluten-free diet are doing so because it’s what they think they need to be doing.  They read about it in magazines or hear about it from friends and think that if they follow suit, they will lose weight and look like Gwyneth Paltrow.  But let’s get one thing straight.  Gluten free is not calorie free or fat free.  If you see a bag of potato chips at the store with a large banner reading, ‘GLUTEN-FREE!’, it does not mean that those potato chips are healthier than they were before that banner was put there by advertisers.  And if you decide to go ‘gluten-free’ but still eat packaged foods, you’re not doing yourself any favors.  By taking out the gluten in a lot of packaged foods, manufacturers are adding in more sugar or fat to compensate. 

I would also venture to say that many gluten-free people who have lost weight or had their skin clear up have done so by eliminating junk food and packaged food from their diet, not because they eliminated gluten.  Perhaps if your diet consists of white bread, fast food sandwiches and packaged snack foods, and you decide to eliminate gluten for reasons of weight loss, and instead begin eating just protein, fruit, vegetables and grains like quinoa, then yes.  Yes, you will lose weight.  Would it be because of the lack of gluten in your diet?  No.  It would be because you took out saturated junk fat, white bread and preservatives and began to eat clean.  But because the gluten is also gone, you can believe that gluten was the culprit.  But how many people (besides those with Celiac disease) do you know who eat a consistently clean diet with the occasional gluten-ed whole grain is in need of gluten elimination?  And furthermore, how many people eat ‘gluten-free’ for a few days out of the week, only to ‘blow their diet’ and ‘splurge’ on glutenous cheat foods, like they would on any other restricted fad diet?  Are they really then being gluten-free?  Why do we need labels?  Why can’t we just say we will eat good, real food and be mindful of what we put in our mouths?

With all of that being said, I’m a cook and a recipe writer and I happen to have many people I cook for who desire a gluten-free menu.  And I always aim to please.  I also like the idea of eliminating white flour if I can because of the lack of nutritional value in it.  So I do have a lot of gluten-free recipes by default.  I always look to make my recipes as healthy as possible without sacrificing flavor.  So for this faux fried chicken recipe, I wanted to try out breading it in things that would satisfy both my wheat eating family and my wheat fearing clients.  And I’m pretty sure I accomplished just that.  I decided to use oat flour, cornmeal and almond meal instead of white flour.  And the end result not only has more good fat, fiber and nutritional value than it would otherwise, but it’s also extra crispy and much more flavorful than it would be if I just used flavorless white flour.

So, in short, whether you like gluten or don’t like gluten, I promise you’ll like my chicken.

*Faux Fried Chicken (Gluten-Free)
(recipe for 12 pieces of dark meat, bone-in drumsticks or thighs)

-Lay out your 12 pieces of dark meat, bone-in chicken on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  (Remove the skin if you desire.)  Season well all over with your favorite seasoned salt or just salt and pepper.  (I prefer Badia Adobo as a base seasoning for all my chicken).  If you leave the skin on, season extra well so the flavor can seep through the skin into the meat.  Place in the fridge, uncovered, and allow to sit for up to three days, but one day is fine.

-On the morning of the day you want to cook, cover your chicken pieces in plain yogurt, slathering it all over and return to the fridge, uncovered, for about 4 hours.

-Make your seasoned coating in a bowl and mix well (this can be done far in advance)-
-1/3 cup almond meal
-1/3 cup oat flour
-1/2 cup corn meal, finely ground
-1 tsp + 1/4 tsp kosher salt 
-1 tsp dried thyme
-1 tsp dried sage
-1 tsp sweet paprika
-1/2 tsp dried mustard
-1/2 tsp allspice
-1/8 tsp cayenne

-Place half of the seasoned mixture in one gallon sized zip bag, and the other half in another.  Add 6 pieces of your seasoned, yogurt-coated chicken into one bag, and the other 6 in the other.  (The two bags is to ensure that there is an even coating of the chicken.)  Close the bag and leave a bit of air inside so that you can shake it well.  Shake each bag until each piece of chicken is coated with the mixture.  (Kids love helping with this part!)

-Place a rack over a cookie sheet and spray it with cooking spray.  Place your chicken on the rack and place it back in the fridge for an hour, uncovered.

Preheat the oven to 400 and allow your chicken to come up to room temperature before cooking.

-Cook your chicken at 400 degrees for 1 hour until crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle.

-Serve with your favorite side, (we ate ours with a raw summer vegetable salad of corn, tomatoes and okra) and enjoy an extremely flavorful and healthier version of America’s favorite handheld meat…whether you welcome the gluten or not.

(For some of my other surprisingly gluten free and healthy recipes, check out my Chocolate Brownie Cups, Coconut Banana Bread, Raw Cookies, Raw Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Pudding Pie.)

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