Friday, January 26, 2007

Baked Chicken with Dijon and Breadcrumb Coating (Plus Quick Smashed Potatoes)

My favorite thing about this recipe has to be how easy it is. When we hit that middle of the week rut and we're all out of fresh vegetables and fruit it can get pretty depressing. Often we'll resort to frozen pizza or something equally lame, but if we can handle the kitchen for about fifteen minutes, I'll throw together this quick baked chicken while he makes a delicious side dish (usually mashed potatoes). We usually have all the ingredients for this one on hand, since most of them are stock pantry items, except for the chicken -- he'll stop at the grocery store in his office building on the way home to grab some more veggies and fruit and also snag some chicken on the way out.
You can make this with standard chicken breasts, but I like to cut the breasts into strips for smaller chicken tenders. I like doing this because it helps control portion size, leaving a few for leftover that can serve as sandwich filler for lunch the next day. Another great thing about this recipe is that if you make mashed potatoes for a side, the timing works out remarkably well. If you throw the potatoes on the stove after preparing the chicken (but before putting it in the oven to bake) everything should be ready at once, allowing you to serve a hot meal all together. This is the mark of a truly successful dinner -- getting the timing just right.

Baked Chicken with Dijon and Breadcrumb Coating
Begin by preheating the oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet (or 9x13 inch pan) with foil.
You can use either fresh bread or pre-made breadcrumbs for this recipe, but since I don't own a food processor (have I mentioned this before? A few times, perhaps?) I always use ready-made, which turns out just fine. If you're going to go with fresh, use about 1/2 a loaf of french bread and tear it into pieces. Pulse the pieces in the food processor until they're finely ground.
In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon of sage (fresh or dried -- I use dried), and salt and pepper to taste. If you're using seasoned breadcrumbs you don't need to add extra salt, but I still grind in some pepper and throw in the sage. Probably unnecessary, but it adds an extra zing to the breaded coating.
In a separate dish, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of dijon mustard.
I always rinse raw chicken before using it, but that's probably because I'm insane. In any case, pat the chicken dry. For this recipe, I usually use about one pound of chicken, which works out to six tenders or two breasts.
Brush the pieces with the mustard butter, or if you're not too squeamish, coat them using your hands. That's what I do, because I don't own a kitchen brush either! Mine melted in the Great Hot Frying Pan Fire of 2006 (Tip: Don't use a non-silicone brush on a hot frying pan. It will melt. And quite possibly burn.)
Throw the coated chicken pieces into the bowl of breadcrumbs and coat. You'll have some breadcrumbs left over (the original recipe wants you to use two cups, but I almost cried after seeing how much I threw away so I cut it down to one cup, which works just fine).
Arrange the chicken on your foil-lined baking sheet (another reason this recipe is so damn great: virtually no clean-up! no greasy pan to wash = love.) Bake for 25 minutes, until they're slightly browned on top and the chicken is done all the way through.

Quick Smashed Potatoes
If you want to make the mashed potatoes, here's a simplified version of the recipe. He usually makes these, so my portions might be off for the butter and milk -- just add a little at a time until the potatoes are the consistency you want.
Peel 3 medium sized russet potatoes and cut into large chunks.
Place in a pot and cover with cold water. The water should just cover the potatoes.
Place on a hot stove and boil for 20 to 25 minutes. Test to see if they're done with a fork or a knife. If they're easy to poke, they're ready to mash.
Mash, using a whisk or a large fork, or a Kitchen Aid Mixer (I! love! my! Kitchen! Aid! Mixer! -- and I'm not the only one, see? Mine is an extremely old model, though, and from the days when it only came in white. Can I have an orange one next time around, please?), together with approx. 1 tablespoon butter and about 1/3 cup of milk.


Sarah said...

A+ on the chicken. Although I used olive oil instead of butter because cooking with butter is simply unacceptable according to italians, and i used thyme instead of sage because I'm a dumbo! But it was really yummy and delicious and now I am eating the leftovers with pasta for lunch. YUMMERS!!!

K8 said...

Oh, thyme is probably really yummy as well. And I imagine the olive oil worked fine, especially since you have to melt the butter in order to use it for the recipe.
The main difference between olive oil and butter is the milk content in butter -- it's only about 80% oil and has milk components and water in addition to the oil. So you might get a slightly moister and creamier product with butter, but that shouldn't matter in this case. It mostly makes a difference in baking, not in cooking. I think.
Butter also cooks at a much lower temperature than most oils do, which, again, is probably not relevant to this recipe but will make a difference when cooking something in a pan.
So there you have it: my theories on the difference between butter and olive oil and why none of that stuff really matters for this recipe anyhow.
That pasta sounds fabulous, by the way... I'll have to try that next time we make this chicken.

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