Oven Fried Chicken

“Betty, here’s my recipe for Oven Fried Chicken.” Lucille said. “Speaking of chicken, are those your chickens running around loose in my back yard?” She slipped the recipe in her pocket and the two women hastened toward the sliding glass door to get a better look.

“No, they’re not my hens. We clipped their wings and repaired the chicken yard fence just yesterday.”

Betty wiped the steam from the glass and peered outside into the early evening darkness. The rain was pelting down in heavy torrents. Lucille’s back yard had become a pool of water and wet grass. A flurry of Rhode Island Red hens were scurrying about in the yard, flapping their water soaked wings against drenching rain. “Gosh, those are my hens!” Betty shrieked. “We’ve got to get them back into a dry pen before they catch pneumonia.”

Lucille quickly followed Betty out into the weather to corral the feathered escapees.

“Here, Lucille, these fishing nets will make catching them much easier.” Betty shouted as she shoved a huge salmon net in Lucille’s direction.

Betty and Lucille chased the squawking chickens through several neighboring yards. The hens noisily dodged swooping nets as the two determined women splashed their way down the usually quiet rural street.

The overly excited birds bolted through an overgrown cow pasture where Betty slipped and rolled across the grass as Lucille slid through a puddle of muck netting a fence post instead of a hen. Customers at a nearby Arco Mini-Mart watched in disbelief as the net carrying duo chased the fluttering flock past the gas pumps and then disappeared into the squall.

“Enough is enough!” Betty said to Lucille. “Let’s go back home and get dried out. Look at us, we’re soaked! Those birds have no intention of being rounded up tonight.”

“You won’t get an argument out of me,” Lucille replied. “But, before we change our clothes, let’s check the chicken coop and see how they managed to break free.”

Chuckling, Lucille added. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and find that some of them went back to the pen on their own. Then we won’t be going back completely empty-handed.”

Betty’s eyes were flat. She was too tired, wet, muddy and frustrated to find any humor in the situation.

There were no visible signs of damage to the outer fencing around the chicken yard. Other than being soaked from the downpour, everything appeared to be in place. How the chickens managed to escape was a puzzle.

Betty opened the hen house door. A single, swaying light bulb dangled from the ceiling made it possible for them to see inside the room. Lucille peeked in over Betty’s shoulder.

The room was dry, warm and undisturbed. The hens were all huddled together on their roost. They had been in bed for the night and safe from the storm since dusk.

The chickens looked up at the two astonished women, softly clucking as if to ask, “Why are you disturbing us at this time of the night?”

“Betty, we’re chicken rustlers!” Lucille squealed. “The chickens we were trying to net must belong to Mr. Brown who lives down by the school.”

“I feel so stupid!” Betty started laughing. She was embarrassed but relieved to know her laying hens were out of harms way.

Lucille pulled a sopping wet recipe from her pocket and handed it to Betty. “We’ve eaten our share of crow today. You and Cindy can make Oven Fried Chicken for dinner tonight…I guarantee it’s far tastier!”

Southern Fried ChickenOven Fried Chicken

1 frying chicken, cut-up
1 cube margarine or butter
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

Preheat oven to 350°. Put the margarine in a large, aluminum foil lined, baking pan with sides, such as a heavy jellyroll pan. Place the pan in the oven so the butter will melt and cover bottom of pan. Rinse the chicken pieces and dry thoroughly; set aside.

Combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a large freezer bag. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Shake excess flour from the chicken pieces and place them in the pan on top of the melted butter.

For best results, arrange the chicken so pieces aren’t touching. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered, then turn chicken pieces and bake for another 30 minutes, uncovered. If desired, continue baking and turning the chicken (in 10-minute intervals) to achieve desired done-ness and crispness.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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