Brown Sugar Pecan Crusted…or wait…Topped, yeah that works, Chicken
Monday, January 6, 2014, started out as one of the coldest days I can remember. I had been struggling with a little bit of a cold that had started over the weekend (not to mention I’m a real baby when I get sick…hey, I have to milk it for all its work since it rarely happens :)) so I slept in about a half hour pass my usual 6am wakeup time. I sluggishly pulled myself out of bed, put on a sweatshirt, and slid into my warm slipper boots.
We have two dogs. A maltese/poodle mix named Callie, who thinks she runs the house, and a springer spaniel named Peaches. The first thing I do every morning, after I bundle up, is let them outside. As I opened the door from the garage to the outside elements, I was hit with an arctic blast like nothing I had ever felt before. Temperatures were in the -20s below zero….that’s right…real temperatures! Windchills were near -50 below zero or colder, which can be especially bad on our property since our oldest trees have only been planted for about 5 years. The dogs and I have never moved so fast so early in the morning. Peaches and Callie did their deeds and were back in ready for their treats and ready to be warm. From that moment, I knew T.J. and I would not be leaving the house for the rest of the day. This would be the perfect day to veg inside in our warm, comfy lounge clothes.
Being the huge homebody that I am (I would never leave the house if I didn’t have to) this was all fine and good, except for the fact that Monday mornings are typically when I venture into town to buy our groceries for the week ahead. This would have to be put off until the next day. Knowing this was going to be a cold day, I had originally planned on making a warm chili or soup in the crock pot, but those plans would have to be changed since we were lacking the key ingredients. The first thing I pulled out were chicken breasts that I knew we had in the freezer. Next, I looked in the pantry and my eyes were immediately drawn to the pecans. That was it, Pecan Crusted Chicken. I’ve had this once before, I believe at a restaurant called Sevens in Clear Lake, IA. I remember it tasting like dessert and wanting to give it a try on my own someday. I also saw that we had a few breadcrumbs…perfect.
As 5:15pm approached, I started pulling out the ingredients I thought I would use…pecans, breadcrumbs – check. Now what would I mix with these to use as the crust? I wanted it to have the “candied” taste I remembered so I pulled out some brown sugar. Many times when I use brown sugar as a glaze I like to mix Dijon mustard and Balsamic Vinegar with it, so I went ahead and pulled those out as well. A little salt and pepper and an egg to dip the breasts in before breading, and I was set. This was going to be so good! A masterpiece…I couldn’t wait for the boys to try it!
As I mixed up the ingredients, I began guessing on how much of each ingredient to use. I crushed the pecan pieces so they were finely “chopped” and added them to the breadcrumbs. Looked like the perfect amount. Here’s where my mistake comes in. I added the same amount of mustard that I usually add to a glaze and then added the same amount of Balsamic vinegar. But oh no, I couldn’t stop there. The Balsamic vinegar smelled so good and it looked like hardly any had been added (since I made the mistake of not stirring it into the mixture first to see how wet it actually was) so I added the same amount again, doubling what I had originally intended. As I began stirring the mixture together, I realized I may have overdone it. The mixture was wet and crumbly…looking more like something I might mix together as a glaze to put over meat in the crock pot…but this “glaze” had breadcrumbs in it…oops. Hmmm…..
At that time I thought, “I think I may have messed up.” But I was going to stick with it. I had said we were going to have Pecan Crusted Chicken and by golly, that’s what we were going to have. So I beat one egg in a shallow dish, added some salt and pepper and was ready to dip and dredge. I dipped my first chicken breast into the egg and then into the pecan mixture, or should I call it Balsamic mixture. For those of you that have breaded meat before, you know that the mixture with the bread crumbs usually clings to the meat. This mixture was so wet, it didn’t even come close to sticking. Well, maybe we’d just have plain chicken breasts then….sorry Mike and T.J. But the pecan mixture smelled so good. So I did a little taste test, and to my surprise it was delicious! This was not going to be wasted.
So what did I do? I improvised, as I often do. I placed the chicken in the baking dish and crumbled the balsamic…I mean pecan mixture over the chicken. This is what it looked like…
Luckily, Mike was at a meeting so he couldn’t see what it looked like before I put it in the oven I baked it for 30 minutes and this is what came out…
I laughed when I pulled it out because the pecans still crusted from all the breadcrumbs, but all the crust was piled on top It actually would have been a really nice glaze, similar to one I already make, if I hadn’t used the breadcrumbs.
As I served it to Mike I think his exact words were, “Interesting.” As an aspiring cook, that’s never the words you want to hear when you serve one of your dishes I told him it was Brown Sugar Pecan Topped Chicken (sounded good, right?). Afterall, it was “topped” with all those things. Then the moment came…we both took our bites…and believe it or not it was DELICIOUS!
I wouldn’t have won any awards for presentation, but despite some setbacks it was a very good meal. I’m going to tweak the ingredients and give it a try again. I’m thinking instead of using an egg, I may mix the Dijon mustard and Balsamic vinegar and brush the chicken with that before dredging it in the breadcrumb/brown sugar/pecan mixture. I wish I would have thought of that last night Live and learn.
Just another day in my Midwestern Kitchen
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