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June 17, 2009
Oven Frying . . . for
the Potato Flakes Among Us
There is a little magic at work when boiling water is added to a potato
flake. Absorbing the water as one might expect a precocious child to
absorb a book of advanced calculus, it swells up as if by magic to its
original size . . . as if nothing had ever happened.
might prompt one to ask the question – what is the point of cruelly
dehydrating a potato if you only intend to at add the water back into
it? Why not simply allow the potato to go about its business until such
time as its assistance is required?
good question, but failing entirely to take into account that the answer
could be, “Because you may wish to do other things with it.”
turns out that there is an entire potato subculture where its flaked
form is used to create an outer shell around meat designed to trap
moisture. This is especially true when applied to chicken, which is a
dinner plate friend and ally of the potato.
speak of a process here known otherwise as oven frying. You may be
familiar with frying as a function of a stovetop burner. You place a pan
on top, add oil, heat and food. After this, that and the other thing,
the food is cooked and you eat. It is as complicated as it is generally
What is oven frying? Oven frying involves placing something in an
oven-safe dish, putting it into a preheated oven, waiting an appropriate
amount of time and after it is cooked eating it. This is typically known
by another name – baking.
So, why call gussy up a dish by referring to the process of oven frying
as baking? People’s palates are generally better disposed to frying than
baking, which has a reputation for meat that is short on juicy flavor
and long on shoe-leather toughness and aridity. The term oven frying,
thus, is a shortened version of “same thing you really want to eat, but
cooked in a fashion that won’t cause your heart to explode the minute
you rise from the table.”
This is where our friend the potato flake comes in. Combine it with some
breadcrumbs, garlic powder and a little paprika. In other bowl, beat an
egg with some milk.
Here is where things take a turn for the weird. Rather than turning on
the stovetop burner, instead turn the oven knob to preheat at 400
degrees. Dredge the chicken through the milk and egg, and then roll in
the coating. Once completed, rather than dropping into hot oil, place in
an oven-safe dish and stick into the oven. Rather than waiting about 10
minutes for it to fry in oil, go read a book for half an hour or more –
until the meat juices run clear and the thermometer reads 165 degrees.
You may call this frying if you wish, or you may call it baking. What
you will certainly also call it is delicious.
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