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Chicken: Have a Zappy Crispness

March 18, 1993|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER | Cone and Snyder are the authors of six books on microwave cooking; their latest is "Home Cooking in Minutes" (Simon & Schuster).

"Succulent but crisp." That's how most people would describe a perfectly fried or roasted chicken. Perfection is, alas, difficult to attain. Sometimes a conventional oven robs the bird of its moisture, and the microwave oven doesn't brown and crisp the skin. But use both appliances for one recipe and you have the means to the perfect bird.

Both oven-roasted and pan-fried chicken turn out great when they're started in the microwave. Even fried chicken, often a fat-laden, greasy creation, requires very little added fat, yet the skin turns out crisp and golden.

CRISP ROSEMARY ROAST CHICKEN 1 (3-pound) chicken, washed and dried 1 lemon, quartered 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried Salt Freshly ground pepper

Rub chicken with lemon quarters. Place lemon quarters in cavity along with 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary on chicken. Season chicken to taste with salt and pepper.

Truss bird by tying legs together and tying wings to body with kitchen twine. Place chicken, breast side down, in 2-quart oval or rectangular microwave-proof and oven-proof dish. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 10 minutes. Turn bird over. Continue cooking on HIGH (100% power) until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in thickest part of leg and body, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain excess juices.

Transfer dish to rack in top 1/3 of 500-degree oven and bake 5 to 8 minutes to crisp skin. Check after 5 minutes to prevent burning. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

QUICK FRIED CHICKEN 1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) chicken, washed, dried and cut into 8 serving pieces 1/4 cup oil 1/2 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place chicken, skin side up, in 2-quart rectangular microwave-proof dish, placing thicker sections toward outside. Cover with paper towels. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) until juices run clear when meat is pierced in thickest parts, 15 to 18 minutes, rearranging chicken pieces after 8 minutes so uncooked portions are on outside.

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet on top of conventional range.

Meanwhile, combine flour, salt and pepper in small paper bag. Drop warm chicken pieces, 1 at time, into bag and shake to coat each piece. Place pieces on platter until oil is hot enough for frying (check by placing cube of bread in oil until browned, about 1 minute). Add chicken to pan in batches and cook until golden, 5 to 10 minutes, turning twice. (Amount of fat absorbed increases with length of cooking time.) Remove chicken from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve warm or cold. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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