This is a low-fat heart-healthy variation on the classic nut-crusted chicken. Except instead of breading the chicken breasts, they are simply dredged in a mixture of chopped almonds and Panko bread crumbs.
The result was a light yet crispy coating that perfectly complemented the tender meat of the chicken breast.
This is a variation on a recipe I found on one of my favorite blogs, We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat. I served it with steamed long grain rice and broccoli. You practically lose weight looking at this, it’s so good for you.
Panko bread crumbs are just Japanese bread crumbs that are little larger than regular bread crumbs. They are now available in most supermarkets.
Almonds, incidentally, are one of those miracle foods that many nutritionists claim have health benefits, including improving complexion and reducing risk of cancer and heart disease. I have used them while dieting as an appetite supressant. A handful of almonds is usually good enough to keep hunger pangs at bay for at least a couple of hours.
If you have lived in or traveled through Southern California, you know that almonds trees are everywhere. In fact, California produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds and 100 percent of all the almonds consumed in the US are grown there.
Harvesting almonds is fun to watch because the trees are hooked up to these big machines which violently shake the trunks so that all the nuts fall off the tree. They kind of look like those weight belts people used to use.
Best of all, almonds are delicious. I used roasted almonds for this recipe, but raw, smoked or even candied would have been great, too. Almonds just have a very pleasant, distinct slightly sweet flavor.
Almond Crusted Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 8 oz each
1 cup roasted almonds, whole
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 TBS EVOO
Fresh cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Put almonds in food processor and pulse until chopped fine. Don’t let it run by itself or the nuts will form a paste with the consistency of peanut butter. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop them by hand until fine. Combine in a mixing bowl with the bread crumbs and toss together.
2. Season each chicken breast with salt and pepper then spray with pan spray and dredge in almond/bread crumb mixture until completely covered. Reserve the remaining mixture for later.
2. Put cast iron pan on the fire. When hot, add oil. When smoking, add chicken breasts to the pan skin side down, being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil. Sprinkle with some of the remaining almond/bread crumb mixture. Carefully cook chicken breasts until golden brown and turn over. Sprinkle the chicken with more of remaining almond/bread crumb mixture. The almonds will burn easily, so watch them closely.
3. When both sides of chicken are nicely browned. Transfer them to a sheet pan fitted with a baking rack. This will allow the breast to cook more evenly. Sprinkle the remaining almond/bread crumb mixture over chicken and bake at 350F for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts.
I served these with long grain rice I made in my rice steamer, and fresh broccoli I made in my vegetable steamer. There was a whole lot of steaming going on in my kitchen, I assure you!