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pecan-crusted chicken cutlets with bacon

January 24, 2011

This, my friends, was some tasty chicken.

Chris and I have tried to make walnut/pecan-crusted chicken before, but it’s always been a bit tricky. It’s hard to get the nuts ground finely enough and then get them to stick to the chicken enough for it to really be worth it. So when I saw Cook’s Illustrated’s version, I instantly filed it away for posterity.

And posterity came a couple weekends ago when we went up skiing for a couple days. Sure, we didn’t have a) a food processor or b) any good knives, but that didn’t stop us. (And by us, I mean Chris—he was on chopping duty.)

Oh, it was worth it. The coating was the perfect balance of salty-smoky-crunchy, and the chicken was flavorful and perfectly-cooked in the middle. And they were baked, so we didn’t even have to deal with flippage! Also, I heard a rumor that they were pretty killer cold the next day in a sandwich. Life is pretty snazzy sometimes. And sometimes it’s not, like this morning, when my train was 20 minutes late and it was approximately -100 degrees. But that’s another story.

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Bacon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz. each)
kosher or table salt
2 slices bacon
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
3 small shallots, minced (about 5 tablespoons)
1 cup panko
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Using fork, poke thickest half of each breast 5 to 6 times. Place on wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and evenly sprinkle each breast with 1/2 teaspoon kosher or 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Refrigerate, uncovered, while preparing coating.
2. Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. When bacon is cool enough to handle, finely chop.
3. Process pecans in food processor until they resemble coarse meal, about twenty 1-second pulses. Heat butter in 12-inch skillet with reserved bacon fat over medium heat; cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter turns golden brown and has nutty aroma, 4 to 5 minutes. Add shallots and 1/2 teaspoon kosher or 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add panko and ground pecans; cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer panko mixture to rimmed baking sheet and stir in reserved bacon, parsley, and cayenne.
4. Lightly beat eggs, mustard, and black pepper together in shallow dish or pie plate. Place flour in second shallow dish or pie plate. Pat chicken breasts dry with paper towel. Working with 1 piece of chicken at a time, dredge chicken breast in flour, shaking off excess, then coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat all sides of chicken breast with panko mixture, pressing gently so that crumbs adhere. Transfer breaded chicken to clean wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.
5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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