Like yogurt, sour cream makes an excellent marinade. Actually, all dairy makes an excellent marinade, and it may be the only type of marinade that actually tenderizes meat.
Acidic marinades work by breaking down protein bonds, which occurs in two stages. In the first stage, broken protein bonds form a loose mesh that holds moisture. But in the second phase, the protein chains tangle, tighten, and squeeze out moisture, making meat actually tougher than when you started. Enzyme marinades work by denaturing the proteins as well–but do so by dissolving them too far, turning meat to something without texture almost from the moment they start working. (Good if you’re making corned beef. Bad if you’re making almost anything else.)
But dairy marinades seem to work. As to why, I’ll defer to Shirley Corriher’s speculation: “It’s not quite clear how the tenderizing occurs, but it seems that calcium in dairy products activates enzymes in meat that break down proteins, a process similar to the way that aging tenderizes meat.”
A family recipe provided by Jennifer Kiel of Washington, DC, from her mother-in-law’s collection, started in Kent, Ohio.
Sour Cream Baked Chicken
One broiler-fryer chicken (2-1/2 to 3 lb.) cut in serving pieces. Or you may just use favored pieces of chicken.
One cup sour cream
About one up seasoned bread crumbs
Remove skin from chicken. Spread sour cream in a shallow baking pan; dip chicken pieces in sour cream; let stand in pan about 20 minutes.
Then roll chicken pieces into bread crumbs, coating thoroughly; place on a well greased baking sheet. Drizzle melted butter over each piece.
Bake in preheated 375 degree oven 45 minutes, turning after 25 minutes cooking time. Yields about four servings.
To two cups dry bread crumbs add one teaspoon salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. sugar and 1/8 tsp. paprika. Prefer seasoned salt and pepper, but the regular will do just as well.