April 16th, 2009

Healthy & Quick Walnut Crusted Chicken (and Fish, Too!)

walnut-crusted-chicken1

Photo: Southern Living

I’m bummed. Can’t find my camera. I’m sure it’ll turn up. But until it does, you’re stuck with other people’s photos. Sorry. Especially since today’s photo is of pecan crusted chicken. And I made WALNUT crusted chicken. This is an important distinction. Well, at least to me. See, I once worked at a southern food restaurant that served a very delicious, very unhealthy pecan crusted chicken. That’s always been my association for nut crusted chicken. So, I was surprised to find today’s recipe for Walnut Crusted Chicken featured in Martha Stewart’s Body + Soul.

I don’t often follow a recipe exactly as written, but this one was already so healthy and streamlined. I didn’t feel the need to change a thing (well, except that I used tenders instead of breasts for finger food-ability), which made this super easy even while cooking in someone else’s kitchen. A quick search confirmed that walnuts are among, if not the, healthiest for you, so featuring them gets this recipe off to a great start. I love using whole wheat bread instead of regular bread crumbs and the minimal frying required. And since I was cooking for grandparents, too, I was happy to use just egg whites. The one thing I’ll add when I make this next in my own kitchen? Some ground flax seed. Because why not.

I served the chicken to ChowPapa, Yiayia, and Mata Dave (it sounds like we’re a family from Star Wars or something) over a big spinach salad with pear, blue cheese, cranberries, and a simple mustard-balsamic vinaigrette. Isaac ate his with a side of mashed sweet potato (inspired by that southern pecan crusted chicken), and salad minus spinach leaves (which he spat out, saying, “No trees!”).

Walnut Crusted Chicken
adapted from Martha Stewart Body + Soul
(can be served to kids 12+ mos)*

2 slices organic whole wheat bread, dried
1/3 cup organic walnuts
2 tablespoons organic Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 large organic egg white
1 lb organic chicken tenders
1 tablespoon organic grapeseed oil (we only had olive oil, which worked fine)
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, combine bread, walnuts, and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper (unless serving to early eaters, in which case you can salt and pepper individual portions before serving). Process until fine breadcrumbs form. Transfer to a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat egg white until frothy.

2. Dip each tender into egg white, letting excess drip off, and then into crumb mixture, pressing to adhere.

3. In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned. Carefully turn chicken over and put skillet in oven. Bake until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Salt and pepper older kid and adult portions.

NOTE: This recipe would also work well with a firm fish. Just replace the cheese with some lemon zest and your favorite fresh herbs.

*There is a lot of disagreement about when it’s safest to introduce tree nuts. Some pediatricians (and we) believe that it is safe to introduce nuts to children without any other food allergies or family history of food allergies at 12 months. Others encourage parents to wait until 36 months. Read more here and speak to your pediatrician about what’s best for your child.

2 Responses

  1. michelle says:

    do your “crusted” things look this good? mine never do. they always look a little pale and the crust is crumbling off. remember those maple almond roasted tofu stars i posted a while back? delicious but not so pretty. got any tips, stacie?

  2. stacie says:

    Actually, this time, my crust did come out looking fabulous! I took a photo on my mom’s camera (b/c mine was missing)–I’m hoping that she’ll get me a copy one of these days so that I can share.

    I think that the walnuts had a lot to do with the success of my crust. Maybe something to do with their oil or moisture content? Either way, they stuck well, unlike a plain old bread crumb crust. A couple of other points:

    1. I used a bit more olive oil than usual (I felt okay about it since I finished the chicken in the oven). When frying is my only cooking method, I usually use too small an amount of oil in an attempt to keep things healthy. I think using so little oil works against a successful crust! I’m not talking deep fried, here, but don’t be afraid to put a decent amount in to make sure the crust doesn’t stick to the pan. If you’re worried about coming out with an oily dish (which this wasn’t, at all), you can always finish in the oven like I did here or pat dry as soon as you remove your meat from the pan.

    2. Sometimes, when I’m feeling patient, I’ll double dip to make a thicker crust that’s more likely to stick. So, it goes like this: dip in flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, repeat. Works a lot better.

    Hope this helps. Anyone have other tips?!

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