November 16, 2004

great job, oven

Saturday, November 13

I have never been shy about telling the world that I hate deep-frying. I bake doughnuts (muffins) in the oven and pan-fry agedashi-dofu rather than deep-frying. Now I have addressed yet another challenge in making substitutions for deep-frying: cooking kara-age or marinated chicken nuggets in the oven.

Kara-age must have been among the best-favorite food of mine back in the day, but like other deep-fried items I have grown to stay away from it over the years. I just don't do deep-frying myself, and my love of kara-age wasn't deep enough to put me on the work of deep-frying. Sad story.

There was one time when I tried to make kara-age in the microwave according to a recipe I had found in a cookbook. It didn't quite work (microwave-cooking could be tricky sometimes), unfortunately, and I haven't since bothered to try it out again.

And here is another such recipe, this time using an oven. I have tried things like oven-fry potato wedges, but not battered, breaded, or floured stuff. I had suspected that a direct contact of the bottom of battered items with the surface of the pan would make their bottom too soggy and gooey... but I gave it a go anyways.

First, I marinated chicken like I would do with regular kara-age chicken; the recipe I used (in Japanese) makes the marinade with squeeze of fresh ginger, soy sauce and sake. This would be a most simple marinade as some might add more stuff like garlic, chili, sesame oil, or egg yolks. I let the marinated chicken pieces in the fridge for a couple of hours and then dredged them in starch - Japanese would typically use potato starch, but I didn't have it or even corn starch, so I used tapioca starch.

Waiting for the oven to get ready, I heated some oil in a small pan on stovetop. While this might seem a bit of fuss, but it somehow made sense to me in light of a rule of thumb: when frying floured items, always heat the oil in the pan before putting them in. That is what I have learned from my mom, and although I don't exactly know how it is true, that is what I have followed over time.

Anyways, back to the chicken: now the oven temperature is super high (450F), and the chicken is floured and sitting on a pan, ready to go in the oven. I poured the heated oil over the chicken and put them in the oven, and cooked for something like 15-20 minutes, increasing the temperature a bit for the last five minutes. The chicken came out looking - greasy. The top parts looked okay, but the bottom seemed like a disaster. I must have used too much oil. I had known I did.

Well, placing the kara-age chicken on layers of paper towel on top of another set of layers of old newspaper to drain excess oil did help the chicken get less greasy, eventually. When I tried a piece right out of the oven it tasted exactly like kara-age chicken that I remembered - and although I believe most of fried food would taste best right out of the oil, my kara-age I thought were actually better once they have cooled and then reheated in the microwave, most likely because they had gotten rid of too much oil.
(I got some feedback regarding ways to keep the chicken less greasy - to place the chicken on a lack over the pan to let excessive oil drop, which I would like to try sometime - I have to buy a gridiron, though.)

Now not being TOO greasy, my kara-age tasted great and got two-thumbs up from him, who must have eaten a pound of chicken - okay, maybe not that much, but a LOT. So did I.


Reid said...

Hi Chika,

Oooh! Chicken karaage. Yummy! This looks good. I can imagine how it must taste, especially since it wasn't fried. I made chicken karaage once using mochiko, it was incredibly light and crispy (I fried it though).

chika said...

Hi Reid, I have never tried mochiko in kara-age, but I assume it would work great - making it light, the as you mentioned. Speaking of mochiko, I like plain deep-fried, thinly-sliced mochi, but it is another story...