My parents and I went on a camping trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the summer after my senior year of high school. It’s one of those trips that will always stay with me. I was in one of those big major transition periods in life (although, like always, I didn’t recognize it at the time) and a trip with my parents to a beautiful part of the country was just the thing I need to feel safe, secure and ready to head into the next chapter of my life.
One evening on the trip, we were headed back to our campsite at a state park in St. Ignace, Michigan and all three of us got an overwhelming craving for fried chicken. Maybe it was the fact that everyone was remarking on our Southern accents (which I don’t have, thankyouverymuch) or that we were so far from home, but something was triggered in us that we needed some good ole country fried chicken.
As you do when on a trip, we decided to ask the locals for the best place to get good fried chicken. We asked the first person and they all but laughed in our faces. After we assured them we were serious, they mumbled something about KFC being on the other side of the bridge while snickering as they walked away. If you’ve ever had real fried chicken, you know that KFC isn’t even an option.
It took a few more locals looking at us with confused faces for it to click in our dense Southern Indiana brains—apparently we were too far North for there to be any good greasy fried chicken joints. Our hometown was surrounded by them, but apparently, that’s not something you see a lot of in the U.P.
Go figure. I’m not sure what we ended up eating that night, but it wasn’t fried chicken.
There are a lot of moments in my life that have been punctuated by fried chicken. And as much as I love really good fried chicken, we all know it isn’t the picture of health food. It’s great in moderation—my family still hits up one of our favorite local fried chicken places once or twice a year and stuff ourselves silly on biscuits slathered in apple butter and plate after plate of crispy fried chicken. But for an everyday solution, baking chicken is where it’s at.
There are a lot of recipes out there for baked fried chicken, so you are probably wondering what makes mine special. Well, I’ve got two words for you—breakfast cereal.
My Mama has always used cereal (corn flakes, to be exact) as a coating for her baked fried chicken, and it’s hard to beat. The cereal sticks beautifully to the chicken and stays nice and crispy. And by “crispy” I mean crisssssss-peeeeee. Like, it crunches so well you’ll have to turn up the TV. It’s such a nice paring with the tender, juicy meat of the chicken.
You can really use any flake-y cereal you’d like, but I chose the breading as an opportunity to make the chicken a bit more nutritionally-dense by using flax bran flakes. Whatever cereal you choose, just make sure to choose an unsweetened or just lightly seasoned flake. You don’t want to be rolling your drumsticks in Honey Bunches of Oats. I promise.
If you are a purist to my Mama’s recipe the only thing you’d add to the crunched up corn flakes are a bit of salt and pepper (and maybe some garlic powder). Simple and easy. I decided to up the flavor ante in the breading a bit with my own blend of herbs and spices. Feel free to play around with whatever flavors make you happy. I’d imagine adding a handful of grated Parmesan and some oregano and parsley would make for some delicious baked fried Italian-flavored chicken. Yum!