Recipe: Devin Alexander's KFC's Popcorn Chicken

April 27, 2006— -- Americans love fast food, but unfortunately, it's one of the reasons that as a nation, we are getting fatter and fatter. To satisfy the fast food cravings of those who are trying to lose weight, Los Angeles food writer, chef and caterer Devin Alexander compiled her healthy alternatives to fast food favorites in her new book, "Fast Food Fix:75+ Amazing Recipe Makeovers of Your Fast Food Restaurant Favorites."

Read the recipe below.

KFC: Large Popcorn Chicken

Save: 306 calories, 39 g fat, 9 g sat. fat

I planned to remake KFC's "Individual" size Popcorn Chicken. But, alas, when I showed up ready to order, the petite, female clerk informed me that they had discontinued it (at least in my local area). I asked her how many people the large served. With a befuddled look on her angelic face, she said, "just one." When I got my first container of chicken home, I counted the pieces. There were 38. 20 of them actually had chicken hiding deep inside of the thick layer of breading; 18 didn't -- deep-fried bread, anyone?

This is the perfect recipe to make with children. It's fun to prepare and fun to eat. Plus, all 25 pieces in my version actually contain chicken and share the delicious peppery seasoning of the original.

2½ ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 teaspoons unbleached or all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon ground black pepper + additional for sprinkling

¼ teaspoon salt plus additional for sprinkling

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

2 egg whites

2 tablespoons fat-free milk

3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

olive oil spray

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Lightly mist a nonstick baking sheet with oil spray. Set aside.

Place the chicken on a cutting board. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper. With the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound to a thickness of about ¼-inch. Cut into 25 pieces that are roughly the same size.

In a small resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, sugar, ½ teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon salt, and the onion powder. Seal the bag. Shake to mix well. Add the chicken. Seal the bag. Shake to completely coat the chicken with the flour mixture. Set aside.

In a small shallow bowl, combine the egg whites and the milk. Beat with a fork until smooth. Place the panko on a small sheet of waxed paper set next to the egg-white mixture.

One at a time, dip the reserved chicken pieces into the egg-white mixture, making sure to coat completely. Allow any excess egg-white mixture to drip off. Dip into the panko to coat completely. Dip a second time into the egg-white mixture and the panko. Drop the pieces on the reserved baking sheet and arrange to make sure they're not touching. Lightly mist with oil spray. Season lightly to taste with salt and black pepper.

Bake for 5 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the breading is crunchy but not browned and the internal juices are clear. (Poke with a fork to check.)

Makes 1 serving: 354 calories, 30g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 5g fat, trace sat. fat, trace g fiber

KFC Original Large Popcorn Chicken: 660 calories, 29g protein, 37g carbohydrates, 44 g fat, 10g sat. fat, < 1g fiber

Before You Start

Like KFC's, this Popcorn Chicken has a strong peppery taste. If you're not a huge pepper fan or you are making this for children, you may want to decrease the pepper to ¼ teaspoon or less.

Even Better:

Prefer more protein and fewer carbs? Like bigger bites of chicken nestled in the breading? You can satisfy your craving by adding more chicken and using less breading. Follow the recipe, but increase the chicken to 3½ ounces and decrease the panko to 2/3 cup. Increase the flour to 1 tablespoon, the pepper to ¾ teaspoon, and the salt to ½ teaspoon. Bake the chicken for 6 to 8 minutes after it is flipped. The revised version has: 375 calories, 36 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, trace sat. fat, < 1 g fiber.

Drive-Throug:

The chicken can be breaded up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator. Or several batches can be breaded for storage in the freezer, layered between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight plastic container. Freeze up to 2 months. Pull pieces out when you want to eat them -- no need to thaw -- and bake according to the recipe directions for 5 to 7 minutes per side.

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