Tuesday, March 19, 2013

0 Recipe #347: Walnut & Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Fresh Herbs, Served with a Side of Steamed Broccoli

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This recipe is yet another selection that will appear in The Athlete's Cookbook. The unique thing about this dish is that it's made with zero added oil, and yet, the chicken tastes incredibly flavorful and moist, and won't stick to the pan. Right about now, some of you might be thinking, "Doesn't skinless chicken breast become dry or burn if you don't add oil to the pan while it's cooking?" Nope. :)

So, how the heck did I do that? Well, for one, the secret's in the ingredients themselves: the walnuts not only give the chicken an incredible flavor and texture but when they're cooked, they release their natural, healthy oils, which keeps the chicken moist and also prevents it from sticking to the pan. The walnuts and Parmesan also seal in moisture and flavor as they form a crust. The cooking technique used in this recipe really does work, and after you try it out for yourself, you'll be amazed at how well it works.

Not only is this dish low in saturated fat, but the ingredients in this dish have some amazing health properties, which are of particular significance to athletes, although they can certainly benefit anyone:

--Parmesan is one of the highest protein, naturally low-fat cheeses there is. It's important to feed your muscle lean protein, especially right after exercise, to help it repair itself and grow.
--Walnuts and flaxseeds are chock full of Omega-3s, which help reduce post-exercise inflammation.
--Chicken contains the highest amount of valine of any food. Valine is one of the essential branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) that help build muscle.
--The fresh herbs in this dish contain phytonutrients, which contain beneficial antioxidants.

Made this dish for lunch today and Erik gave it two thumbs way up. Otherwise, you wouldn't be seeing this recipe here. ;)

In fact, Erik's verdict is exceptionally useful, not only for perfecting recipes, but also because it's basically a litmus test to predict whether or not other people will like it as well. If he likes a dish, it's almost always a big hit with others. It's simply uncanny how many times this happens. I can't tell you why or how this works exactly; it just does. It doesn't matter what type of recipe I'm writing, his opinion is so on the mark that it's like he's some kind of freakishly accurate fortuneteller. ;) When I said as much to him, his response to this observation was this: "I just know what most people like." Not sure the explanation is as simple as that, but who knows, maybe it is. Lol. Bottom line: If he likes a recipe, it'll usually make its way into a cookbook. :-D

Walnut & Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Fresh Herbs, Served with a Side of Steamed Broccoli

8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets (2 4 oz. fillets)
1/2 c. walnut pieces
1/4 c. ground flaxseed
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram leaves
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions: A half hour before cooking, remove chicken from the refrigerator and allow to reach room temperature. Set aside. Add all remaining ingredients, minus the egg and lemon juice to a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a large, shallow bowl and set aside. Crack egg into an another large shallow bowl, add lemon juice, and beat together. Set aside, next to the bowl of nut and cheese mixture. Heat a large (12-13") saute pan on high for 30 seconds. Then reduce heat to medium low. Dip chicken fillets, one at a time, into the egg mixture first, shaking off excess, and then transfer them to the bowl with the walnut-cheese mixture, coating chicken with crumbs on all sides and pressing to adhere. Be sure to wash off your hands between each dipping to make the chicken easier to handle. Place chicken fillets into the pan. Chicken should sizzle as it hits the pan. Sauté chicken for about 5-6 minutes per side, or until golden brown and the juices run clear. (You might have to adjust the cooking time slightly, depending upon thickness.) Cut into the chicken with a fork and knife to test for doneness. (Chicken should be juicy but no longer pink or fleshy on the inside.) Remove from heat and place onto plates. Let rest for a few minutes. (The meat will continue to cook as it rests, so be sure not to overcook it.) Serve chicken with a side of steamed broccoli.

Yield: 2 servings.

Chef's Notes: Here are quick directions for steaming broccoli: Bring a pot of water, lined with a steamer basket, to a rolling boil. The water line should just reach the bottom of the steamer basket. When water has come to a boil, add broccoli, close lid, and steam for 10 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and do not cook any longer than this; otherwise broccoli will overcook while it rests in the pot. (Properly steamed broccoli should retain its color as well as a bit of crunch and give.) Quickly drain broccoli into a colander and allow to cool for a few minutes. Season as desired and serve.

Adaptations: To make this dish Paleo, simply omit the salt, Parmesan, and flaxseed. Also, if you'd like to experiment by substituting other types of nuts, I suggest trying almond slivers, pecans, or macadamia nuts, all of which will complement this dish rather nicely. You could also try using a combination of different nuts for a more complex flavor.

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