Somehow, chicken has become the default American protein. It’s understandable, I suppose. We’re still a meat and potatoes culture at heart; the day is far away that we will generally wholeheartedly embrace legumes as the fallback. Eggs have too much cholesterol, dairy too much fat. Eating seafood involves navigating a minefield of ethical, environmental and safety issues, with buzzwords like “Mercury”, “Overfishing”, “PcBs”. Plus, a lot of (misguided) people just won’t eat fish, because it’s too … fishy. (Go figure.) Beef has its own issues with the environment and health issues, leading many people to “give up red meat” for unspecified reasons. And they usually lump in lamb, too. Pork is either too fatty or too lean, depending on who you’re talking to. And so we’re left with chicken. Preferably boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the completely inoffensive meat.
All of this is tongue and cheek of course, as I like a varied diet and believe in everything in moderation, but we do find ourselves eating chicken at least once a week, on average. And so I’m always looking for new and tasty ways to prepare what has become, for most of us, a staple. Without resorting to the use of ingredients like grape jelly, pandan extract or fairy dust, the application of “foam”, or freeze drying anything.
This pretzel crusted chicken is a perfect easy, weeknight meal. It’s an adaptation of a dish that I used to eat at the City Bakery in New York, where it was often part of their (excellent and ruinously expensive) salad bar. The ingredients are easy to find (and not ruinously expensive), the preparation is simple. It can be served hot or cold. And the result is just novel enough to break out of those chicken blues.
- 8 oz. hard pretzels (I used tiny twists)
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup whole-grain mustard
- 2 T Dijon mustard
- 2 T water
- 3 T red wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut in half lengthwise (to make 8 flatter chicken breast filets)
- Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Place a shallow rack over a baking sheet.
- Place the pretzels in a gallon ziploc bag and run a rolling pin over them until they're coarsely crushed but still identifiable as pretzels. Place into a wide, shallow bowl.
- Add the mustards, water and vinegar to a bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is homogeneous. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the chicken to the mustard mixture and toss to coat. Lay each chicken piece in the crushed pretzels and turn to coat.
- Arrange the pretzel coated chicken pieces on the rack set over your baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until firm. Slice and serve.