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Drastic Modifications Make Old Favorite Healthy

Wed., Oct. 29, 1997

Unfortunately, many old favorite recipes are loaded with fat like the one for oven-fried chicken in gravy that has almost 900 calories and 54 grams per serving.

The ingredients? Skin-on chicken, butter, condensed cream of mushroom soup, Cheddar cheese and canned french-fried onions.

Drastic changes were required to bring the recipe in line with recommended nutritional levels. First, boneless, skinless breasts replaced chicken fryer pieces. White meat is the leanest part of the chicken, especially after the skin is removed. Chicken skin is almost pure fat and adds about 5 grams of fat, or 45 calories, to every 4-ounce serving.

The second change was replacing melted butter with olive oil and slashing the amount used. Other changes - using low-fat, condensed cream of mushroom soup, low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth and Parmesan cheese - further reduced fat and calories. Finally, we trimmed the amount of french-fried onions from a full can to a few tablespoons.

The new recipe for light chicken in gravy has 385 calories and 11.7 grams of fat, and includes helpings of kid-pleasing, extra-wide egg noodles. Building pasta into the recipe increases the calories from carbohydrates, producing a more nutritionally balanced dish.

Light Chicken in Gravy

Nonstick cooking spray

1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 or 5)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth

1 (10.75-ounce) can low-fat cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 pound sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons french-fried onions

4 cups wide egg noodles, uncooked

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat an 8- or 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pat the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. Trim off the thin, pointy ends of each breast and combine them to make 6 (4-ounce) portions of meat. (You may also substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Substituting thighs will slightly increase the fat content of the recipe.)

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the meat with the olive oil. Place the flour on a plate. Roll the chicken lightly in the flour. Place in the prepared baking pan and bake 20 minutes. Remove from the oven; reduce oven temp to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken broth, low-fat cream of mushroom soup, Parmesan cheese, mustard, salt, pepper and sliced mushrooms. Stir to blend completely. Pour the soup and mushroom mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle the french-fried onions on top. Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer, until the mixture is bubbling.

While the chicken and gravy is cooking, bring a large kettle of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain thoroughly. Serve about 1 cup of noodles per person with a portion of the chicken and gravy.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 386 calories, 11.7 grams fat (27 percent fat calories), 42 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 120 milligrams cholesterol, 848 milligrams sodium.

Nutrition information substituting 1-1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thigh: 376 calories, 15.5 grams fat (37 percent fat calories), 32 grams protein, 26 grams carboydrate, 112 milligrams cholesterol, 767 milligrams sodium.

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