One thing I know and have discovered through years of research into my family line on Ancestry.com is that I have Austrian influence in my genes. My mother’s maiden name was Pivarnik, which means “son of the beer maker” and is of Bavarian descent. I even married a man with Austrian heritage. My ex-husband’s last name, Rossmeissl, means “horse chisel.” With Austrian influence on both sides, it was no surprise we had grown up with similar meals passed down along our family lines. However, it wasn’t until a family trip in 2003 exploring the Austrian and German countryside, cuisine, and drink, that we began cooking backhendl (pronounced BAK-ehn-del).
Backhendl is simply an Austrian version of fried chicken using a whole chicken.
I adapted a recipe from Epicurious.com from the Gourmet September 1990 issue after having an Austrian au pair help me out with the children the summer of 2006 at our home in Bartlett, TN. She introduced us to several Austrian customs and flavors. She even sent me a cookbook for my birthday after her return to her Graz, Austria to finish university. The adapted recipe I am about to share became a fan favorite at our neighborhood’s association International Food Fair with requests coming prior to the event asking if I could bring that amazing chicken dish. Southerners love their fried chicken. The event and having young children at the time were some of the reasons I created adaptations to the recipe. And since, I have adapted it again to accommodate my youngest daughter’s Celiac Disease restrictions.
Here is my twist and adaptation on this classic favorite. I’ve added notes as to my changes while leaving the original recipe from Epicurious intact, so you can adjust as you see fit for your taste and dining desire.
Two 3-pound chickens – I first started doing this just with chicken legs (skin removed) for the DPHA International Food Fair and then changed over to the boneless skinless chicken strips to make eating even easier and more kid friendly.
All-purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging the chicken.- To make this gluten-free for my youngest daughter, I now substitute gluten-free flour easily found at your local grocery store often in the organic or natural foods aisle.
3 large eggs, beaten lightly
2 cups stale fine bread crumbs- To make gluten-free I like to toast my daughter’s favorite brand of gluten-free bread and then put into the food processor to turn into crumbs. The grocery store now has gluten free bread crumbs as well as croutons that can be processed to make crumbs as well.
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Fresh thyme branches for garnish (optional)
Tomato chutney as an accompaniment (optional) My kids still like to grab the Heinz ketchup.
If using whole chicken, quarter each chicken, discarding the first 2 joints of the wings. Remove the breastbones and ribs and remove the skin and any fat. Have ready in 3 wide shallow bowls ( I use my glass pie plates) the flour, the eggs, and the bread crumbs. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off excess, dip it in the egg, letting the excess drip off, and coat it well with the bread crumbs, shaking off the excess. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and chill it, uncovered for 30 minutes. The chicken may be prepared up to this point 1 day in advance and kept uncovered and chilled. ( I believe this is the secret step…shhh)
In a large deep skillet heat 1 inch of the oil to 350F and in it fry the chicken in batches without crowding, turning it, for 5 minutes, or until it is golden brown, transferring it as it is fried to paper towels to drain. Arrange chicken on a rack in a shallow pan and bake it in the middle of a preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes for the breast pieces and 20 minutes for the leg pieces. (If using boneless chicken strips you can cut times about 1/2. Depends on the thickness of your strips.) Arrange the chicken on heated platters, garnish with thyme, and serve it with the chutney.
Note: Some recipes garnish with lemon wedges and/ or add it in during the dredging process.
2 whole chickens makes 8 servings.
Want to add some fun to this meal? Get the kids involved. I have 3, so each kid was in charge of one of the coating stations for the chicken. Ever since they could walk, I have made meal prep time fun and adventurous for the family with one child always getting to be cook’s helper with their own aprons. Aprons that we actually created and designed our self with paints and food shaped stamps from your local craft store. What better way to introduce yourself and your family to other parts of the world than through your palate? And trust me, you can’t go wrong with this one. I mean who doesn’t love fried chicken???
Photo courtesy of https://www.graztourismus.at