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Butter up boneless fried chicken

(ran NP edition)

Much maligned but still much loved, fried chicken doesn't have to be shunned by health-conscious cooks. That's the firm declaration Melanie Barnard and Brooke Dojny make in their cookbook, A Flash in the Pan (Chronicle, 2003, $22.95 paperback).

That fried chicken doesn't have to be overlooked because of time constraints is a given in this book, where every one of the 100 personal favorite recipes included can be made in under 30 minutes, in a skillet.

This recipe is their favorite way to make fried chicken, they say: "Boneless chicken breasts dipped in buttermilk, coated in cornmeal, and skillet-fried in a touch of oil take about 15 minutes from start to finish."

The secret is the buttermilk.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Gravy

1 cup buttermilk

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks

\ cup yellow cornmeal

\ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon coarsely ground

pepper

{ teaspoon salt

\ cup corn or canola oil

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce,

or to taste

Cooking and preparation time: about 15 minutes.

Pour { cup of the buttermilk into a shallow dish just large enough to hold the chicken. Use your hand to flatten the chicken to an even thickness of about { inch. Dip the chicken in the buttermilk, turning to coat completely.

In another shallow dish, combine the cornmeal, \ cup of the flour, pepper and salt. Dredge the chicken in the cornmeal, patting the mixture to coat the chicken all over.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Pan fry the chicken over medium-high heat, turning once, until it is cooked through and the coating is dark golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour into the pan drippings and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour paste takes on a golden color, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the broth and remaining { cup of buttermilk. Cook, stirring up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the gravy is bubbly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Season with hot-pepper sauce, salt and pepper.

Serve the chicken with the gravy ladled over it.

Makes four servings.

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