Nut-Crusted Chicken Breast with Lemon and Thyme

January 27, 2012

With a bunch of blanched almonds left over from my Spanish stew, I made this mid-week nut-crusted chicken. The recipe recently spent a few weeks as the featured recipe on the Cook’s Illustrated website. The nuts made the crust very rich, but the Japanese bread crumbs still allowed the crust to become crispy. The lemon brightened the inherent richness of the nuts perfectly. The biggest drawback is the huge mess; 3 pie plates, 2 wire racks, skillet, baking sheet, cutting board and food processor. The meal itself is perfect for a weeknight, taking about an hour, but my kitchen was too messy for me to enjoy the rest of the evening. 4-stars.

Rich flavor you'd never guess came from nuts

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball says that an equal amount of peanuts, pecans, pistachios or hazelnuts. I used my blanched almonds, though the recipe calls for un-blanched almonds. I believe the extra nuttiness of the un-blanched almonds would be the preferred choice.
  2. Supposedly the chicken will only take between 20 and 25 minutes in the oven to reach an internal temperature of 160-degrees. I upped the temperature to 365-degrees and it still tool 35 minutes to reach the desired temperature.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Big.
Start time 5:00 PM. Finish time 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared this today are given below:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup almonds. roughly chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
1 medium shallot
1 cup Panko
1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour

  1. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 350-degrees. Use the tines of a fork to puncture the thickest part of the chicken 5 times each piece. Evenly sprinkle each piece with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and place on a wire rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet. Place uncovered in refrigerator until ready to apply coating.
  2. Cut your butter into 4 pieces place in 12″ skillet. Over a medium burner, melt butter and saute butter for 4 to 5 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Making sure to cook butter until it smells nutty is an important element in the success of this recipe.
  3. Meanwhile, minced your shallot. When butter has browned, add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and continue sauteing for 2 more minutes.
  4. While the shallot cooks, add almonds to food processor and give it about 20 one second pulses.
  5. Reduce burner down to medium-low. Add Panko and processed almonds to skillet and saute for 10 to 12 minutes until they become golden brown. Remove from skillet and put in a pie plate. Grate the zest from one lemon directly over the nuts.  Mince thyme and add to nuts. Sprinkle in cayenne pepper being careful that it doesn’t form clumps. Mix to combine and evenly distribute everything.
  6. In a second pie plate, mix together eggs, Dijon mustard and ground black pepper.
  7. On a third plate, add 1/2 cup of flour.
  8. Remove chicken from refrigerator and pat dry using paper towels. One piece at a time, dredge chicken in flour and shake off any excess flour. Next dredge in egg mixture and allow any extra to drip back into the pie plate. Finally, place chicken in nut mixture and press so that crumbs adhere.  Place the chicken to clean wire rack set placed over the same foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat the dredging and coating with the remaining pieces; but you may need to add a little flour to the nuts if it becomes too moist.
  9. Place in oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165-degrees. Allow to rest, uncovered, for 5 minute. Cut the lemon from which you removed the zest into 4 wedges for serving alongside the chicken.
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