The South is very well-known for fried chicken and for its nuts (okay, no hillbilly/redneck jokes, now), with pecans topping the list of southern grown tree nuts. When thinking of Southern foods, fried chicken and pecans would certainly come to mind; so why not combine them? Buttermilk soaked, pecan crusted, fried chicken works. Only in this recipe, the chicken was oven “fried” for a healthier version of the Southern favourite, and with only five ingredients.
Over on facebook today, my food quote of the morning was this:
Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. ~ Michael Pollan
My great-grandmother was a pretty amazing Southern lady. Born and raised in Nashville, she was the epitome Southern grace and beauty. Just look at this picture:
Her given name was Sarah Louise (my sister’s namesake), but nearly everyone called her Cassie. When her beloved husband passed away, Cassie took in boarders to her enormous house on West End Avenue in Nashville to make ends meet. I’d imagine that she fried a load of chicken in her day. While my great-grandmother probably never coated her chicken with panko crumbs and pecans, I feel pretty certain she’d recognize this dish; I hope she’d approve.
The two elements of great fried chicken are in this recipe: It’s soaked in buttermilk and it has a light, crispy crust. Not only does buttermilk add a distinct and tangy flavour to the chicken, but the enzymes contained in buttermilk actually break down the tissue of the chicken making it more tender. The crispy crust is composed of panko crumbs and ground pecans, rather than chicken skin, and create a really delightful crunch; with the added lemon zest, you get a nice bright, fresh, note that enhances the tang of the buttermilk.
In this version of “fried” chicken, I didn’t fry it in the traditional way in a skillet with fat. Rather, I gave it a light spray of Pam and baked it in the oven. The crispy coating of panko and pecans gave the chicken that same golden glow, without the mess or the fat of frying. That said, you could certainly pan fry it and it would be delicious.
Since this is a Five Ingredient Friday dish, here are your five ingredients:
- Boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
- Panko crumbs
- Lemon zest
Not only is this chicken delicious, it is really beautiful. I could certainly imagine this gracing any table, from an outdoor picnic bench to the most elegant dinner party. It is simple and quick (well, minus the soaking time for the chicken), and you really should try it.
- 4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup pecans, toasted, coarse ground
- 1 cup panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs can be found in the international specialty food sections of most grocery stores)
- Zest of one lemon
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Cooking Spray (such as Pam)
- A splash of Tabasco in the buttermilk (optional)
- Place each piece of chicken between two pieces of parchment paper, or plastic wrap (even a large zip lock bag works), and gently flatten with a heavy object (I use my rolling-pin).
- Place the flattened chicken into a bowl, cover with the buttermilk and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Place the ground pecans, panko crumbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper into a wide, shallow dish and stir to combine.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the buttermilk and shake off any excess buttermilk.
- Dip the chicken into the breading mixture, evenly coating both sides.
- Place the chicken onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Lightly spray the top of the chicken with cooking spray.
- Place the baking sheet into a preheated 375 degree F oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the crust is golden brown.