How to make chicken breasts taste good, part I (Oven-baked Crispy Chicken)

I expect this will be the first in a series of posts about how to make chicken breasts taste good.

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Am I the only one who thinks that poultry mammary is just not…well…good? I have always thought of chicken breasts as an excessively blank canvas barely redeemable by the most robust of flavours and fattiest of fats. It does not help that we have all, myself included, been fear-mongered by the threats of “salmonella!” and “cross contamination!” into rendering our chicken breasts into rubbery protein pucks.

But chicken breasts are good for us, you say! Indeed they are. So says Kiwi’s naturopath-slash-low-carb-enforcer. And these days I therefore have no choice but to cook chicken breasts.

So back to the point. How to make them taste good. In a weeknight flash.

Step 1: make sure your breasts are nice ones. Juicy ones. (I am speaking of the chicken’s of course. I have all but given up hope on mine, but that’s another story for another blog, clearly.) Preferably some combination of free range, organic, naturally raised. The best you can afford. I have been springing for organic ones lately, and can honestly say I have yet to be disappointed.

Step 2: cut them in half. No, not the usual way. Pull off the tenders, and then run your knife sideways all the way down the chicken breast to divide it into two thin cutlet-type thingies, like this:

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This has the double benefit of (1) making it look like you have a whole lot more chicken than you actually do (a bonus when you are springing for organic, especially), and (2) massively increasing the coverage of the crunchy goodness discussed in step 3.

Step 3: bake them in a blanky of crispy crunchy tangy goodness. Not that out-of-a-box version, but an almost equally simple one that can be assembled with pantry ingredients: good bread crumbs, pepper, a bit of spice if you like that sort of thing, mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you live anywhere near me and can get your hands on the ShaSha organic sprouted spelt  breadcrumbs, lucky you. I know you won’t believe me, but please try: these things are reeeeeeeediculously and obnoxiously delicious. I imagine panko breadcrumbs would be a good, if less virtuous, substitute, though I haven’t tried them in this recipe.

Oven Baked Crispy Chicken Breasts

Almost any side dish rocks out next to these chicken breasts, but veggie sticks, or a green salad and some steamed broccoli or roasted sweet potato wedges is a good place to start.

Oven Baked Crispy Chicken with side salad

Oven-baked Crispy Chicken Breasts

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

These tender breaded and baked chicken breasts can be thrown together in a weeknight flash, and are a big hit with family-members of all ages (at least in my house!). Serve them on their own or with a favourite dipping sauce. Leftovers can be frozen and gently reheated in the microwave.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup coarse and crunchy breadcrumbs (like these: http://www.shashabread.com/bread-crumbs/)
  • Pinch of pepper (about 10 turns of the pepper grinder)
  • Lemon wedges for serving (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Optional flavour enhancer:
  • 1 teaspoon each dry oregano and thyme OR
  • 2.5 tablespoons za'atar OR
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or line it with foil.
  2. Remove the tenders from the chicken breasts. Cut the remaining breasts horizontally into thin cutlets.
  3. In one shallow bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lemon juice. In a second shallow bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, pepper, salt and your flavour enhancer (optional).
  4. Dip the chicken into the mayo mixture, brushing off some of the excess with your fingers, then coat well with the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat for all chicken breasts, arranging the coated breasts on the prepared cookie sheet.
  5. Throw into the oven and bake until chicken is just cooked through (not rubbery!), about 15 to 20 minutes. This is the key--resist the temptation to overcook it!
  6. Squeeze lemon over hot cooked chicken and serve.
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