Melba Wilson might have learned the restaurant ropes at various eateries in New York City, but the Harlem native credits her grandmother, Amelia, for teaching her how to cook. Wilson owns her own restaurant now, Melba’s, in Harlem, where she serves comfort food classics, including meatloaf, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and the fried chicken and eggnog waffles that beat Bobby Flay’s chicken and waffles on his Food Network show.
Since we’re talking about chicken this week, I wanted to share her spin on fried chicken, which involves panko bread crumbs, mayonnaise and an oven. This recipe is from her debut cookbook, “Melba’s American Comfort: 100 Recipes from My Heart to Your Kitchen” (Atria, $30), which came out last week.
With a lot less fat (and a lot less mess) but all the great flavor of traditional fried chicken, this is also a great way to serve fried chicken to a crowd. Just increase the quantities as needed, put it in the oven, and you’re done. You can even make it in advance and serve it at room temp.
— Melba Wilson
6 chicken thighs
6 chicken drumsticks
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. whole milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Put the chicken in a bowl and season with the poultry seasoning, cayenne and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. In a second bowl, combine the bread crumbs, the salt, and pepper to taste. Combine the milk and mayonnaise in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken pieces in the milk mixture and then in the bread crumbs.
Lay the breaded chicken in the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. Then turn it over and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until it is done. When done, it should register 165 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer and, when pierced with a fork, the juices should run clear. Transfer to paper towels to drain before serving. Serves 4 to 6.
— From “Melba’s American Comfort: 100 Recipes from My Heart to Your Kitchen” by Melba Wilson (Atria, $30)