Almond and Panko Crusted Chicken

With an unexpected extension of winter, come meals that try to satisfy that umami craving I just can’t shake.

As well as wanting to spoon whoever or whatever is in my vicinity.

It seems winter brings out our need for creature comforts. I love to sit on the sofa and read an old favorite or two.  They’re easily found in their special spot on the bookshelf; pages dog-eared, almost torn it’s so well-read.  A good cup of tea is the only requirement, steeped with milk, and sipped while your feet are curled up underneath you.

Today I reached for an standby  – A Homemade Life – and paused.  Piled on top of it were three issues of Cooks Illustrated that I  never got to.

I received a complimentary subscription to Cooks Illustrated after contributing (due to the brilliance of the Alec Baldwin promo) to NPR this year.

I finally decided it was time to start reading them, despite the stigma.  I always thought of America’s Test Kitchen and related brands to be directed towards grannies sitting at home, knitting some horrid pastel afghan for their soon-to-be unlucky relative.  But, I a secret to share with you:

I love ATK.

Despite Chris Kimball’s freakishly small hands.

I cannot believe I waited this long to get into Cooks Illustrated, because they are incredibly insightful.  And with this new found knowledge of various kitchen equipment ratings to articles trying to find the best possible way to make a certain recipe (chewy fudgy brownies? yes please!), I was able to make a dinner, that I think is my new winter favorite.

I’ll share the first half of it in this post, the second (barley risotto with wilted greens), is still in the works.  But seeing how I love to procrastinate as much as I enjoy eating cake for breakfast, it may take another day (or more) for me to get around finishing it.

Adapted Just A Little, from Cooks Illustrated



2 chicken breasts

A fork

2 pinches of coarse sea salt

1 large egg

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup whole almonds

3/4 cup panko

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I love it spicy, but if you hate the burn, I mean, flavor, start with 1/8 teaspoon)

2 tablespoons olive oil


Food processor

1 small bowl


4 plates (or 4 pieces of aluminum foil with the edges folded up so that they are able to keep the contents from expelling onto your work surface)

1 medium skillet


Cookie sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil (you can also use a wire rack, to ensure the bottom of the chicken is also crispy, but a lot of people don’t have this piece of equipment, including myself)

2 paper towels

Place the oven rack into the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.

Place four plates on a table in a row, with the intent to hold your ingredients in the following order: 1) chicken breasts, 2) flour, 3) egg with mustard, 4) almond/panko crumb mix.  At the end of the line, place the cookie sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil.

Place the chicken breasts onto the first plate.  Poke the chicken breasts multiple times with the fork.  Season with one pinch of  coarse sea salt per breast.  Put back in the refrigerator, until it’s time to coat them.

Add flour to the third plate.

Put almonds into the food processor and pulse 3 seconds at a time, about 10 times.  Be sure to keep an eye on it, as you do not want almond butter.  What you’re looking for is a coarse ground.  My food processor is old and the blades are a bit dull, so yours may take less time to grind the almonds down to the desired consistency.  Cooks Illustrated instructed 20 one second pulses, but the grind was no where close to where it needed to be.  Again, my food processor is sad and old.

On medium heat, add olive oil to a medium skillet.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add ground almonds and panko crumbs.  Stir until golden brown, about 5 – 7 minutes.  Take off heat and add thyme and cayenne pepper.  Stir to combine, then pour contents of pan onto the fourth plate.

Break the egg into a small bowl and whisk until homogeneous.  Add dijon mustard and whisk in.  Pour contents of bowl onto the first plate.

Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and place at the beginning of your plate line.  Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.  With one hand, dip one chicken breast into the flour, taking care to cover both sides.  Shake the excess off, then dip the chicken into the egg mixture, making sure that the whole chicken is covered with your adhesive (egg).  Hold the chicken breast up, above the plate containing the egg mixture, and allow the excess to drip off.  Finally, coat the chicken breast with the panko/almond mixture.  Place the crusted chicken onto the lined cookie sheet and repeat the previous steps with the second chicken breast.

With the other hand (hopefully still clean) place the chicken into your preheated 350F oven and bake until the temperature of the thickest portion of the chicken is 160F.  In my oven, it takes about 30 minutes.  But I have an oven from the 60s.  And she’s cantankerous.  Very.

The first time I made this chicken,  I baked it for twenty minutes (per Cooks Illustrated instructions).  The first time I checked the temperature it was around 140F.  I placed it back into the oven and baked it for another 7 minutes.  The second time it still wasn’t at 160F, so I waited another five minutes.  Thankfully, around thirty minutes from the start it was ready.  But, again, my oven is a terror.  She lit on fire the first time I asked her to broil something.  True story.


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