Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I can't believe that I haven't posted this before! It's so easy and so obvious and yet totally delicious and versatile. The best thing about it is that it is very kid friendly. We call it "crispy chicken" and for kids addicted to chicken tenders, it's a segue to home cooked ones. It's simply boneless, skinless chicken thighs coated in a mixture of whole wheat bread crumbs and wheat germ. OK - not good for the gluten free, but for others, a quick and simple weeknight meal. I like to serve this with a couple of colorful vegetables to brighten up the plate. Here, I've roasted chunks of butternut squash lightly coated with olive oil and mixed with a pinch of salt, a couple of grinds of pepper and a pinch or two of brown sugar. Spread out onto cookie sheet or sheet pan and sprinkle a little hot pepper over top - I use Aleppo pepper. This goes in the same oven at the same heat as the chicken - you just need to stir the pieces up a couple of times - for about 30 - 40 minutes. Serve an easy green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans alongside. This photo of my plate also includes a dollop of a prune, olive and orange tapenade I had made earlier in the week and which I ate by the spoonful all week.
I like to use chicken from local farms - usually Springfield or Ayrshire, depending on season. Many farms are now offering cut pieces and not just whole chickens. In my area, Mom (My Organic Market) sells Ayrshire Farms meats all year round (Thursday delivery to the Rockville store - I know, they should pay me for publicity!)) so if a farm stand is not available or convenient, I can always count on Mom. While I will sometimes buy a whole chicken expressly to cut up, and it is cost effective to learn how to dismember a whole chicken, for thighs I much prefer to buy a package as it would take several chickens to have enough thighs for a meal.
I also choose thighs over the somewhat healthier breasts as they are pretty hard to overcook. Boneless, skinless breasts can quickly go from well-intentioned to inedible in a matter of minutes. If you are a very careful person and don't cook in large sweeping gestures like I do, then go ahead and use the breasts. Also, the thighs tend to be nice and thin rather than the plump breasts which you'd need to cut and pound to really be tender. Another option is turkey scallopine, which is just thinly sliced turkey tenders. I find these stay nice and moist as well.
Now if you're interested in spicing things up, feel free to add some za'atar or other spices to the crumbs. With this recipe, though, I usually keep it simple and add the spice to the accompanying dishes. The wheat germ adds a nutty flavor that is different than the parmesan/garlic flavor often added to bread crumbs for tenders like these. It's also a lot easier to convince some kids to eat these without the additional seasoning.
(serves 4 - 6)
package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 1.25 pounds - I like to allow two thighs per person
1 egg, lightly beaten, with two tablespoons water added
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (you can make these in your food processor with some slightly stale whole wheat bread or use pre-made. I like Whole Foods brand which has no sodium)
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
light coating olive oil or vegetable cooking spray for greasing the pan
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place beaten egg and water mixture into a dish or pan with a side high enough to contain the egg.
3. Alongside the plate with the egg, set out another plate or some waxed paper and gently mix the bread crumbs and wheat germ on that.
4. Have a baking pan handy (I like to line mine with foil) and lightly coat with oil. Place pan next to the plate with the crumb mixture.
5. One by one, dip each thigh first into the egg and then dredge into the crumbs (both sides) and then place on the pan.
6. When all thighs have been coated, place in pre-heated oven for about 30 - 40 minutes, depending on size. I like them to get nice and crispy but not shrink up too much. Check them at 30 minutes and see if the crumbs have browned yet. If not, leave them in the oven a little longer.