Last week, Jenny went away for three days to work on her book. I don’t know if anyone else out there finds this to be true, but we have this theory about parenting being easier — not better, mind you, just easier — when the spouse is away. The chain of command is clearer. Movements are more efficient. Decisions are more decisive. With no safety net, I feel like we tend to be a little better about being doers, about making the bed in the morning and mustering the energy to move that dirty juice glass the three feet from the sink into the dishwasher, about not standing around in the kitchen, checking email again and being generally suspended in that maddening state of inertia that sets in when you’re trying to decide what to do and who’s going to go upstairs and get the sweater down from Abby’s closet and who’s going to make sure Phoebe’s teeth are brushed properly, since the dentist put a watch on one of her molars last time we were there and, wait, did we pack any snacks yet?
So I had a big weekend planned. We would be a perpetual motion machine! Saturday morning, we went hiking up at Bear Mountain. We had lunch — burgers with jalapenos and sharp local cheddar, a black-and-white milkshake, and hand-cut fries — at the outrageously tasty Woody’s All-Natural in Cornwall, New York, which, if you live within 100 miles of the place, I implore you to try, for real. We made nine jars of pickles. We played home run derby on the patio. And when it came to dinner, I saw this as an opportunity to do something different and fun, to branch out with a hanger steak or a rack of ribs or one of those silvery whole branzinos I’d been eyeing at the fish market. The best part was, after a death march of a winter, we could even cook outside. The weather was just beginning to turn — a cruel tease, as it turns out — and the grill was on the patio, cleared of snow, practically begging to be fired up. Afterwards, we’d call Jenny and surprise her with our enterprising dinner adventures. There’s nothing she likes more than when we go and expand the family repertoire.
It was late afternoon when we finally got around to planning the menu. I quick-polled the kids to see what they were up for.
They were up for chicken. Chicken, chicken, and more chicken. Chinese chicken, they said. Adam’s crispy chicken. Barbecue chicken! Drumsticks! Chicken!
What is it about chicken? I mean, I have nothing against the stuff, I enjoy it most of the time and God knows, we cook it enough, but sometimes I worry that these kids, if left to their own scary devices, would eat nothing but. After trying and failing to tempt them with other (better!)* options, I folded up my tent and agreed, but on one condition: we try it a new way. I bailed, for the night, on my dream of grilling. Instead, I summoned the prefab glory days of the 1970s, and went with an updated, non-toxic version of Shake ‘n Bake. It took no time to prepare, the kids had fun shaking, and we made it with all fresh stuff, and went heavy on the herbs. And the sandwiches the next day — on toasted buns, with mustard — were ridiculous. — Andy
*Seriously, why don’t they trust me?
Shake ‘n Bake Chicken
Besides the fact that this meal rings the nostalgia bell, there’s another huge advantage: It takes ten minutes and there’s no clean-up whatsoever.
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
Generous amounts of salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound chicken drumsticks
1 pound boneless chicken thighs
Olive oil, about 1/4 cup
Preheat oven to 400°F. Put breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, thyme, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper into a Ziploc freezer bag and set aside. (A word about the salt and pepper: don’t skimp.) Empty chicken parts into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (See note above about not skimping.) Toss with olive oil, until each piece is nicely coated. Using tongs, take chicken, three of four pieces at a time, and drop into the Ziploc bag,. Seal and shake until chicken is covered in breadcrumb mixture. Remove, shaking off excess, and arrange on foil-lined baking sheet, until all chicken parts are ready for roasting. Cook, turning once, for 40 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Thighs may cook faster, depending on thickness.
Yum! I hope DALS will offer healthful ways to recreate some other 70’s favorites such as Space Food Sticks and Tang 🙂
NICE! you have solved my “what’s for dinner” problem by 9am pst. It looks delicious. I, like your daughters, love non-toxic shake n bake. I can’t wait to try it.
Perfect. I’ll do this tonight….or some version or another. That’s the beauty about these kind of recipes, you can alter to your tastebuds or to what spices you have on hand. Thanks!
I have a home-made shake and bake recipe that includes a packet of tomato cup-o-soup. Which probably contains a few unhealthy ingredients too.
I don’t really taste the tomato, but it helps with the color and the depth of flavor.
I totally agree about things getting done with one parent at home. When my wife is gone the kids are in bed earlier, asleep earlier, and I can get so much done.
WOODY’S! I’m fortunate to live not-too-far away. What a fantastic way to top off a trip to Bear Mountain, West Point, Storm King sculpture museum, or summer fruit-picking.
Your kids eat jalapenos and cayenne?? You lucky dogs!!
I was considering not leaving my real name (yes, this is THAT Melissa, who is related but has yet to figure out how – culinarily speaking anyway). You see, as I type, I in fact have, in my oven, the 70’s style toxic Shake & Bake coating some chicken thighs for dinner (organic, skinless, boneless, airchilled chicken thighs, I might add – I’m not a total heathen!). And truthfully, I am very excited about getting in-toxic-ated by them in short order. I guess the conclusion that must be reached here is that it’s not just my children who are a little (okay, a LOT) behind on this DALS stuff. Sigh. Maybe I should schedule an intervention…
Are you from Wichita KS…as in Wichita State Shockers?
Phoebe eats the jalapenos; Abby won’t go near them. And the cayenne: there’s so little of it, that I’m not sure they even notice it. Just adds a little something, is all. Melissa: sorry about the toxic line! My attempt at a joke. Believe me, if Shake n’ Bake was toxic, I’d have keeled over long ago. And Ohio: nope, not from Wichita, but have a friend who went and brought the shirt back for me.
boo. I knew you were too cool to be from Wichita. We had Kirstie Alley, but she went to the bad place. It is actually a pretty good place to live if you like chain restaurants, short winters and getting anywhere in town in 12 minutes.
No offense taken whatsoever. I just have to laugh at the great divide between two cousins that has one bearing children who consider chicken as something that comes other than in nugget/tender form (again, organic at least!) and the other whose children think oranges and broccoli are “new foods” to try. Baby steps…
great idea! will try it out soon, love the blog and the stories. you and your family make me smile.
Great post Andy! Talk about nostalgia–my dad used to take us to Bear Mountain all the time when we were little. I don’t remember Woody’s, but I wish I did. And Shake n’ Bake chicken! I remember my neighbor’s mom making it for dinner all the time, I remember the smell, I remember the commercials (“…and I helped”)! You’re recipe sounds fab–will have to try. Thanks.
I love this. Shake and bake was the first thing I learned how to cook…And pretty much the last. I’m so glad the Times diner journal sent me your way today — this is my first time and it looks like I have a lot of catching up to do. Great post!
just want to let you know…they came out delicious! the whole family loved them. thanks again 🙂
Made this for dinner with my 3 year old! He helped shake and thought it was amazing!
We used Pablo for breadcrumbs, and for tender taste buds, go light on the cayenne!
We had it with a cheaters risotto, with peas and parmesan! Great easy meal! Will put it on our regular rotation.
Cheater risotto recipe, please?
I tried this last night and it was terrific! My kid wouldn’t eat it (overdid it with the cayenne), but husband and I scarfed it down. Using fresh breadcrumbs solved the whole soggy-bottom thing I always get with regular Shake n Bake. Thanks!!
I live in a house divided. One vegetarian and 3 omnivores. We have decided for health and earth reasons to go mostly vegetarian and we have meat, always local, once or twice a week at the most. I had chicken thawed when I read this post and made it the next day. Of course we had the “and I helped” added that made the kids question our sanity, but it was a winner and we 3 loved it and it is now on my favorite meal list. Thanks!
I made this tonight and my kids couldn’t get enough. Thank you so much for the new staple to our repertoire. It was sooo easy. How great are those TJ’s organic drumsticks?!
Another thumbs up here! Kids loved it, husband was impressed, and I am happy to have another recipe in rotation.
I just had to pop in and comment on how right you got it about parenting alone! I have to confess that when my husband worked night shift, I had the house TOGETHER, man. I was on top of things! I was also exhausted and frazzled, but with it just being me and the kids, I kept busy, I got stuff done, etc etc. Now that he is home again in the evenings, I love the help, but the house is a wreck, we actually cop out on cooking more than I used to going it alone, and I totally get the inertia of the “who’s doing what” kind of scenario. Thank you for writing this out and for articulating it so clearly!
Just found your web site from a post on Mom Filter. Tried this chicken tonight…we all devoured it…even the picky toddlers! Thanks for the new recipe and for a lovely dinner with my family!
Made this last night and it was a huge hit – thanks!
I experimented tonight with marinating the chicken before coating it as it was a Sunday and I had time. I let the chicken sit in about a fourth of a cup each of apple cider vinegar and honey an hour before I coated and cooked the chicken.
Between using really thin pieces of chicken, the shake and bake above, and the marinade beforehand, I somehow managed to create the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Holy cow! Try it if you get a chance.
I added about 2 tbsp. of garlic powder and it tasted great.
i finally got around to making these….oh, man…so good! you really need an “after” picture b/c these things come out of the oven so golden, crispy–beautiful! cheers!