Breaded Sage Chicken with Easy Roast Vegetables

I got the idea to make this recipe from my sister Yasmin who isn’t a big fan of using breadcrumbs.  Fortunately for me, she bought a great quality bag from Eataly to use for her chicken parmigiana recipe, and she happily gave me what was leftover (which was most of the bag).  I think breadcrumbs are a fantastic thing to have on hand for anyone looking to pull a quick and easy meal together.

Breadcrumbs add loads of flavor to anything they coat, and they are delightfully simple to work with.  Just toss whatever you’re eating – porckhops, chicken thighs, fish fillets – with a little bit of egg or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, coat with breadcrumbs and cook in an oiled skillet until done.  Breadcrumbs go particularly well with lemon juice.  For another suggestion on how to use them check out my recipe for breaded hake with peppery lemons.

This recipe was an automatic winner for me also because it includes one of my favorite foods to cook in the winter,  the sweet potato.  Can I just say, my sweet potato only cost .69 cents from the expensive “gourmet” grocery store down the street, which kind of makes me feel like I’m cheating someone when I eat it.  Inexpensive, packed with flavor, AND really good for you?  Impossible!

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Ground Walnut & Pomegranate Chicken Stew

I tried to take a pretty photo so you wouldn’t gasp in horror, because if you’re thinking it, just know you’re not the first: this dish has a tinge that can make you think of something you’d rather forget while you’re eating. It’s been a longstanding joke in Iranian culture, which is where this recipe comes from. But it’s just so delicious that I promise you’ll forget all about its color after one bite!

Once you’ve gotten over this fact hopefully you will start making it. And fortunately for everyone it is a cinch to make!  We start by grinding our walnuts in a food processor.  I swear this isn’t a plug but I’m so ridiculously happy that I have a Cuisinart CSB-77 SmartStick Hand Blender.  Basically, it’s everything you could ever need in one: an immersion blender, an electric whisk, and a food processor.  It even comes with a nice measuring cup!  So anyway, put your walnuts in a processor:

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Poulet en Papillote (Chicken in Foil)

So I decided to give this type of chicken preparation a try mainly because the recipe I posted for salmon in foil, or saumon en papillote, was very successful (it’s the most read recipe on this site).  I certainly understand why this recipe’s salmon counterpart does so well:  food cooked in foil is a cinch to prepare, since you’re not really doing any cooking at all.  Just a little bit of slicing and dicing, and folding up the aluminum to make a pretty package, and the oven does all the rest!

I found that cooking chicken this way is almost a breakthrough: I have never made chicken so tender. Each morcel was easily pierced by a fork, and the soft bite was a far cry from the rubbery chicken I know we’ve all made at least once or twice.

I wasn’t sure what to make in terms of sauce; I knew mushrooms, thyme, and mustard would be in the mix, but I wanted to ensure that it would have flavor, so I decided to add a lot of freshly ground pepper to give it an extra kick.  However, I should warn you that since dijon mustard already has a tang, the addition of pepper really ups the zest in each bite.  I loved it, in fact I soaked up all the remaining sauce with a lovely French baguette – but if you know that you don’t like foods that pack a lot of punch I would recommend foregoeing the pepper, and instead adding a variety of fresh or dried herbs, such as sage, parsley, or oregano. 

And I would also urge you to experiment with the vegetables added to the foil package: fingerling potato would certainly make a nice addition, as well as perhaps leeks, cauliflower florets, or maybe even carrots.  Feel free to play around and come up with something that suits you perfectly, this recipe is extremely flexible.

I picked up chicken breast that had already been cut into cubes, but I would recommend using a whole chicken breast, or chicken thighs in this recipe.  Made with chicken breast this recipe is not only easy but extremely healthy – there is essentially no fat in the dish! The cooking time should be about the same whether you use chicken pieces or a whole breast.  For a thigh I would add ten minutes.

Happy eating my friends, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Poulet en Papillote (Chicken in Foil) – serves 1

1 large white mushroom (or 2-3 small white mushrooms)
1 chicken breast
4 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons of a dried herb of your preference (thyme, sage, oregano)
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 white onion
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

Preheat the oven to 410°F/210°C.
1. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel or brush, and slice thinly. Place mushrooms on a sheet of aluminum foil (the sheet should be large enough to cover the chicken breast).
2. Place the chicken breast in a bowl and cover it thoroughly with mustard, 1 teaspoon of the dried herb, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Place the chicken breast over the mushrooms.
3. Peel and thinly slice the onion, spread the slices over the chicken breast. Cover the mixture with the remaining thyme, pepper, and the olive oil (if using), and pinch all edges of the aluminum foil together to create a sealed pocket for the chicken.
4. Place foil on a baking dish and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until breast is very tender.

Chicken Piccata (Or Floured Chicken with Lemon, Parsley, and Capers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 After having written this post I realized that this recipe is very similar to one I wrote two weeks ago for whiting fish in a mustard, lemon, and parsley sauce.  I guess this means I am in a lemon-and-parsley kind of mood lately – hopefully you are too.  Truth be told, it is also thanks to a reader from California, who asked me if I knew a good chicken piccata recipe, that I decided to bust out a version I made once or twice for my dad (a lover of this recipe, especially when made with thinly pounded veal), and I am happy to be re-introduced to this easy and delicious staple. 

For this particular recipe I did what I like to do best, which is  invite over some cobailles, or guinea pigs, to test the recipe out before publishing it here. Et voilà, quelle joie de voir leurs bonnes réponses à propos de cette recette! Bref, my willing friends (thanks Erin and Sophie) confirmed what I was hoping to hear: this recipe is extremely fast to put together (less than 20 minutes, honest!) and packs a lot of fantastic flavor in just a few ingredients.  My chicken piccata sauce came out very green, but that is because of my firm belief in doubling the amount of herbs in almost any recipe - they can only add to the depth of flavor, and I follow the reasoning that if I’m already chopping then I may as well go the whole nine yards and chop a lot.  However, if you are not like me and don’t enjoy running your knife (which is hopefully very sharp and large) through a seemingly endless pile of parsley, there is another solution: stem your parsley leaves, place them in a high-rimmed glass cup, and cut them up with scissors!  You will get good results with a lot less work.  Or, you can be like me and enjoy this type of torture. C’est comme vous voulez.

A quick note on butter: butter is a high-fat pleasure that adds fragrance, flavor, and richness to any food it touches.  We all know the satisfaction of walking into a kitchen and smelling the nutty and delicious smell that butter gives off once it begins to brown in a skillet – it’s almost as amazing as waking up to the smell of bacon (I have yet to think of anything that smells better, except maybe freshly brewed coffee in the morning -I’d love to hear your ideas on this matter).  However, I have a sister who  is the star of my life (she works – get ready for a blatant plug – at the Daily Meal, a new and thorough food website, started by the ex-forbes.com CEO), and this wonderful relation of mine has had high cholesterol since about age 14, and has since then been denied the privilege of guiltlessly indulging in butter-drenched delices.   Because of dietary restrictions implemented on her at a very early age, I also grew up understanding the risks involved in consuming food with a high saturated fat content.  Why am I telling you this? To explain what I could have said in about a dozen words: if you want to substitute the butter in this recipe for olive oil, you can. 

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy fatty food without significant consequences, then I implore you to make the recipe as I did and as written, which is still light and healthy.  And if you do try it, please let me know how it comes out – I think I can say with confidence that you will surprise yourself by your cooking skills, and you will see how easy it is to prepare delicious food.   

Chicken Piccata  – serves 1

1 skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in half or pounded thinly
all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place some flour in a shallow bowl, and dredge the chicken to coat with flour.
2. Heat half the butter in a small or medium skillet over medium heat (big enough to hold the chicken). Once hot, add the breast and cook until done, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate.
3. Heat olive oil in the same skillet. Add the lemon juice, capers, and chicken stock, and stir to combine. Add chicken back to the skillet, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Stir in parsley and remaining half of butter. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

>Floured Chicken with Pomegranate and Pistachio

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Taking a break from my paper on social determinism in the French educational system (grâce à mon cher ami, Pierre Bourdieu), to write about a delicious dinner I made tonight and which I sincerely hope you try.  It features a combination of strong and separately delicious flavors, notably pistachios, pomegranate, turmeric, and mint, spread under and over a slightly floured and fried chicken breast.  The best part is it only takes 20 minutes to put together!
This is a side note, but in my opinion a rather important one:  when choosing your chicken breast, please try to purchase a piece of meat that is about 1/2-inch thick, maybe a little thicker.  I can’t be the only one who has walked into a grocery store only to find chicken breasts that are about 2 inches thick, and clearly pumped with all types of hormones that I’m not comfortable eating (and you shouldn’t be either!).  Please stay away from the latter type of breast, and stick with the thinner ones; it not only seems more natural and logical to me, but anything thicker negatively affects the cooking time in the recipe.
Ok, on to more positive thoughts:  a delicious piece of chicken.  The pomegranate paste (the same as used in the walnut-pomegranate spread recipe), adds a tangy, slightly bitter sweetness which complements the nutty, sweet, salty, and herby flavors provided by the pistachios and mint.

I would suggest serving this with any roasted or sauteed seasonal vegetables, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, or artichokes, or with a green salad tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.
Golden Chicken with Pomegranate and Pistachio – serves 1
1 chicken breast, about 1/2- or 3/4-inch thick
1 egg
1 tablespoon flour
1/4-cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon pomegranate paste or pomegranate molasses
1/4-cup shelled pistachios
1 teaspoon turmeric
1.  Wash and dry the chicken breast, and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.  Whisk the egg to combine and put in a shallow dish.  Spread the flour in another shallow dish.  Dip the chicken breast in the egg, making sure it is completely covered.  Then place the breast in the flour, again making sure it gets covered completely.
2.  Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the chicken, and fry until cooked through, about 16 minutes.
3.  Meanwhile, prepare the paste:  place the mint, pomegranate paste, pistachios, turmeric, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender, and process until all ingredients are combined.
4.  Before turning the chicken over (about 8 minutes into cooking), spread a layer of paste over the breast.  Turn over and finish cooking through. 
5.  Serve on a plate, and top with remaining paste, and extra pistachios and mint leaves if desired.