Firecracker chicken

“I need not fear, for example, a dish of Caribbean chicken: don’t the kidnapped children tuck into fried chicken when their pirate abductors dock at Saint Lucia in Richard Hughes’s High Wind in Jamaica?”

Laura Freeman, The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite

This recipe firecracker chicken because it’s crispy, and also firey-red with the paprika. It was inspired by an idea I found in Nisha Katona’s Pimp My Rice, where she uses Rice Krispies as a coating for fried chicken breasts (there is also a version of this – excellent for picnics – where cornflakes are used).

For a really healthy version of this mayonnaise-as-glue sticking a crunchy covering onto chicken technique, go to Nearly Reese Witherspoon’s Nut Crusted Chicken.

Serve with a green salad, with lots of lime-based dressing.

If there are any crumbs of Rice Krispies left at the end of the cooking process, add them at the very last minute to your green salad.

For a VERY QUICK TRUNCATED version of this, slather chicken breasts in mustard, coat in cornflakes and bake in a 180°C oven for about half an hour – until the juices run clear from the chicken.

Recipe for Firecracker fried chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 100g/4 cups of Rice Krispies (you can also use cornflakes)
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika (or you could use Aleppo pepper or Byadgi (Kashmiri) chilli)
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme – or so – use any left over to garnish the yoghurt sauce
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt, split in two
  • ¼ lime – juice and zest (use the rest to make a dressing for the green salad with 5 tbsp oil and some seasoning)
  • 240ml/1 cup mayonnaise plus an additional 180ml/¾cup (one entire 430ml squeezy bottle of Hellmans’)
  • 600g/1 lb 12 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts – the quality of the meat is important – get these from a good butcher if you can
  • 50g/2 oz /four or so knobs of butter
  • 180ml/¾cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp smoked salt

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 210°C.
  2. Use a silicone sheet to line a flat baking tray.
  3. Dry fry the cumin seeds, and crush in a pestle and mortar
  4. Put the Rice Krispies in a large freezer bag. Add the paprika, the crushed cumin, the smoked salt and the thyme. Hold the bag loosely and mix everything together. Then give it a couple of bashes on the worktop to roughly crush. Empty onto a wide, shallow bowl.
  5. Mix half the garlic, the lime juice and zest, and the cup of mayonnaise together in a medium-sized bowl.
  6. Cut the chicken breasts into smaller pieces – about three per breast – but keep the number easily divisible by four.
  7. Mix the rest of the garlic with the butter. Slit each piece of chicken to make a small pocket and stuff with the garlic butter.
  8. Mix the chicken pieces carefully into the mayonnaise mixture.
  9. Take the pieces out one at a time, coat in the Rice Krispie mixture, and lay each out on the silicone paper.
  10. Put in the oven for ten minutes. Take out. Turn each piece of chicken over. Return to the oven for another five minutes or so – until golden.
  11. Meanwhile mix the rest of the mayonnaise with the Greek yoghurt. Garnish with any remaining thyme, and maybe a sprinkling of paprika.
  12. Serve the chicken hot, with the yoghurt/mayonnaise sauce and a green salad, dressed with a lime-based vinaigrette.
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