This past weekend was amazingly unbusy, which was a lovely change for me as it gave me the rare opportunity to catch up with friends who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like (because of my “responsibilities” like “work” and “school”). We gathered for coffee at a local Upper East Side diner to dish about all that was new in our lives - newfound ventures in work, school, and relationships – until talk turned, as it usually does, to wining and dining.
We grazed over the usual – what new restaurants everyone had been to lately, which were the best, which to avoid. But my ears perked up when one of the girls mentioned an “amazing” new dish that she had created for dinner earlier in the week. Corinne, who readers might remember from her epic optimism and creativity in rescuing my butternut squash ravioli-turned-kindergarten paste, had found a promising recipe from Real Simple magazine for a traditional baked chicken with a twist. Upon first explanation of the dish, I thought it sounded interesting, but I was far from sold. Just listening to her describe the parmesan, parsley, and breadcrumbs that coated the chicken, I thought it sounded good but fairly typical.
But then I got home and decided to look up the recipe for myself on Realsimple.com. The picture on the website looked WAY more appetizing than I had imagined – unlike a typical chicken cutlet, which usually have only a thin, greasy breadcrumb crust, this chicken breast was encased in a thick, crumbly, golden crust that looked scrumptuous, but not the least bit greasy.
My solo Saturday evening dinner was suddenly looking up, and so I headed to the kitchen and scoured my fridge for the necessary ingredients. I was excited to find that this dish could be made with items that most folks have on hand regularly – boneless, skinless chicken breasts, wheat bread, parmesan cheese, and a handful of spices.
A little while later, while I sat enjoying my peaceful dinner for one, I realized a couple of things about why this chicken is so rediculously wonderful. This dish kind of reminds me of Thanksgiving – the chicken is perfectly moist and almost buttery, just like the delicious turkey breast we all love on Thanksgiving. And my favorite part – the whole wheat breadcrumb crust is so reminiscent of stuffing, it’s uncanny. This crust would be fantastic amped up with some more traditional stuffing herbs like thyme or sage! And on top of all that, this dish is the perfect easy go-to dinner for after work, as well as an uncomplicated delicious dinner to make for someone else. Plus its ready in just about a half hour, with lots of down time available for you to concoct a side dish like Sweet Potato and Leek Sauté (jump to the end of post) or Israeli Couscous.
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (or dried parsley, if you don’t have fresh)
- 2 slices whole-wheat bread
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves
- 4 teaspoons Dijon or whole-grain mustard
Start by preheating your oven to 400º F. Lightly coat a medium baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Start by toasting up your wheat bread until it is just golden, and then chopping it into about 1 inch cubes; then, get our your food processor. Mince the garlic in the food processor, then add the parsley and pulse until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the wheat bread, parmesan, olive oil, mustard, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Pulse until well combined.
Arrange the chicken in the baking dish. Spray with a little cooking spray, season lightly with salt and pepper (remember, there’s some in the crust), then pat the crumbs on top.
Bake until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes or until juices run clear. Let rest for about 5 minutes to allow the chicken to finish cooking and the juices to redistribute.
Sweet Potato and Leek Sauté
- 2 to 3 sweet potatos, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 medium – large leek, sliced thin
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tbsp of fresh mince thyme (sage can also be used)
- Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and thyme, and sauté for about 1 minute, or until fragrant and starting to turn golden. Add the thinly sliced sweet potatoes (and more oil, if the pan is looking dry), toss to coat, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover, add the leeks, salt and pepper. Adjust the heat if the potatoes or garlic are starting to brown. Cook uncovered for an additional 5 to 8 minutes, or until a fork can be inserted effortlessly into a potato (the potatoes are cooked through). Serve immediately with the baked chicken!