This post is dedicated to a dish that some of you might know from vacation in Austria, where you can find it on most of the local restaurant menus: Backhendl. Literally translated, it means baked chicken – it’s a chicken, divided into pieces which are breaded and fried. As simple as that. But there is a huge difference between a Backhendl and a really good Backhendl. During our recent cooking class with the Austrian Michelin chef Hans Haas, we learned how to prepare a Backhendl that deserves a place on a gourmet restaurants menu – and even though it’s not “fast food”, it’s not rocket science if you stick to a few essential things.
Top 5 tips for the perfect Backhendl:
1. Don’t compromise on the quality of the chicken
Buy local and organic. Free-range chicken that are well-fed and have the chance to grow slowly and happily are key to a juicy and tasteful Backhendl.
And I definitely recommend to use all of the chicken – the pieces you don’t need for the Backhendl (e.g. the wings) and the carcass make a nice chicken stock – with some vegetables and noodles a perfect dish for the next day.
2. Cook the chicken legs before breading and frying them
The meat of the chicken legs, even if you bone them needs a bit longer to be fried and you risk that it is burnt outside until it’s cooked inside. Boiling the legs slowly for 30 minutes before breading and frying them will result in some perfect pieces of chicken – juicy inside, crisp and golden outside.
3. Add some whipped cream to the eggs when breading the chicken pieces
This is the secret to a fluffy breading that is holds well onto the meat without sticking to it. A must!
4. Use home-made breadcrumbs
Don’t get tempted by ready-made breadcrumbs from the supermarket shelf. Save up some breakfast rolls or baguette, let it dry and use your food processor to make your own. Or check if your baker has home-made breadcrumbs on offer.
5. Don’t save on the fat when frying the chicken
In order to get the typical golden and fluffy breading, you need plenty of fat for frying the chicken – ca 1cm deep in the pan. I use a mix of neutral oil (e.g. rapeseed) and clarified butter (Butterschmalz) for the best taste.
Backhendl is typically served with potato salad, which is made with a vinaigrette based on beef stock, vinegar and onions in Austria and southern Germany. The recipe for this will follow in a separate post – so stay tuned!
- 1 free-range organic chicken, ca 1,2 kg
- 2-3 eggs, mixed with 2 tbsp whipped cream
- rapeseed oil
- clarified butter (ghee/ Butterschmalz)
- Clean out the chicken and cut it into 6 pieces (don't separate the legs into drumstick and thigh). In case you want a recap of how to do it, click here for a great 3-minute video.
- Soflty boil the legs in the stock for ca. 30 minutes, then rinse them with cold water.
- Remove the skin of the breast and the legs and them into medium sized pieces and season well with salt and pepper.
- To bread the chicken, first turn each piece in flour, then in the eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs.
- Heat a good amount of fat (ca. 1cm deep in the pan) in a deep frying pan to ca. 160°C and fry the Backhendl on both sides until golden and crispy.
- Serve with green or potato salad.
Here you can see the two different pieces of Backhendl: in the back a piece of fried chicken leg, boiled before breading and frying, in the front a juicy piece of chicken breast that was fried and breaded raw.