Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pecan and Herb Crusted Chicken Cutlets

This is packed with flavorful herbs, nuts, and fresh lemon zest, with just a little bite of heat. Definitely not another boring chicken dinner! I posted the original version of this recipe, Chicken Delicioso, a couple of years ago, with no picture. I've made it many times since then, and thought it deserved a re-post with a few updates and photos. You can serve it on salad, or with a side of cooked carrots, or any vegetable you fancy.

I used to use potato flour instead of AP wheat flour to dry out the chicken and give the egg wash something to stick to. However, I've decided I like the finished texture of the crust better when I skip the flour step, and just press the nut crust into the egg-washed chicken. Pecans are a softer nut than almonds, and I like the taste better, but you can use whichever you have on hand.

I'm using 2 pasture-raised chicken breasts. They are not as big as regular "supermarket" chicken breasts. If you have an enormous chicken breast, cut it horizontally into multiple cutlets. Allowing 4 oz chicken per person, this recipe serves 4.

1.5 c coarsely chopped pecans or almonds
Leaves from 6 sprigs rosemary
Leaves from 6 sprigs thyme
2 full handfuls parsley
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 pound total weight), let sit out at room temp 30 min before cooking
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs from free-range hens, room temperature. If you need to warm them up fast, put them in a liquid measuring cup or bowl, cover with hot tap water, and let sit for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 300*F. Set out a half-sheet pan lined with two layers of paper towels to absorb the excess oil. You'll be putting the cutlets in the pan to keep them warm as you cook up the batches.

Combine all of the Coating ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the herbs, nuts, and garlic are finely minced. Be cautious with this step: if you over-pulse, you will release too many of the nut oils and end up with a too-sticky coating, or worse, a nut butter. Pour a modest layer into a shallow dish, and set aside the rest (you'll see why.) In another shallow dish, beat the eggs with 2 TB water.

Heat a large (10") skillet over medium heat and generously coat the bottom with EVOO. While the pan is heating, cut your chicken breasts horizontally to make 2 or 3 cutlets each. Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of waxed paper and pound them until they're less than 1/2" thick and of even thickness.* I don't bother drying them with paper towels.

Generously season one side of the cutlets with the kosher salt & pepper. Using your "chicken dipping hand", dip the cutlet in the egg mixture, then put it in the Coating dish. Using your clean hand, cover the top of the cutlet with more from what you set aside and use your chicken hand to gently press it into the meat. Use a fork to gently pick up the cutlet and put it in the hot oil, and use a fork or metal spatula to gently turn them; the coating isn't going to stick as much as it normally would. and you don't want to accidently knock some of it off.

Cook about 3 or 4 cutlets at a time for just about 2 minutes on each side, not crowding the pan, and transfer to the half sheet pan, which you'll keep warming in the oven until all the cutlets are cooked.

You may have leftover Coating; since you haven't contaminated it with raw chicken, you can keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge, to stuff it in artichokes or use on pork chops next time. I never have any leftover because I like lots of crust.

If you're serving the cutlets on a salad, toss the greens with Apple Cider Vinaigrette. I use my (clean!) hand instead of tongs or forks because I can thoroughly coat each leaf with very little dressing.  Add sliced cucumbers, radishes, scallions, or Pickled Red Onions, and top with a cutlet or two. Delicious. I really, really like this. A lot. I'll even eat leftover cutlets straight out of the fridge the next day for a quick protein snack.

*If you try to pound out the breasts without cutting them in half first, the meat will "pull" together again. It's worth taking this step for best results.

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