Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crunchy Herbed Chicken

Well, like it or not, autumn has arrived.

Ten days ago, as we were driving through the mountains on our way home from the beach, I noticed the changing leaves. I tried to ignore it and became slightly car-sick as I instead concentrated on a magazine in my lap. Jack would occasionally, annoyingly, comment on how red one tree was or the pretty gold color of another to which I would plug my ears with my fingers and hum The Flintstones theme (my favorite way of “not listening”).

I refused to wear jeans until a few days ago, opting to expose my legs to the chill of a late-September mornings and evenings. They’re just so confining. :) We went to the lake house for a couple of days over the weekend and out on the water, in the canoe, I noticed that the majority of the trees were still green. Today it is rainy, cool, and damp. I now see that the trees in my very own yard are turning color. Traitors.

Out of the window I see hanging baskets that are browning, marigolds whose lower leaves are yellowing, and the blackened stems and seed-heads of the profusion of Brown-Eyed Susan’s, which only a month ago were so dazzling that I had to take photos. There are so many of these, and I think that I should fashion bouquets suitable for decorating tables in the Addams’ Family abode. Or in my own house, since they are very Halloween-ish.

But the best part about the arrival of Fall is that, suddenly, I want to bake again. I’ve taken a few months off, and have even bought bread recently, but the urge is now there again. On Sunday I made a double recipe of Italian Whole Wheat Bread, but I discovered that I am actually running out of flour. The 100+ pounds which I bought last year is down to a couple of pounds. No, I wasn’t hoarding because I had some eerie premonition of high wheat price, but instead was stocking up because my favorite brand was being discontinued. I will have to buy more this week and I don’t know how to prepare myself for the shock that will surely come when I no longer pay 12½¢ per pound (yes, that is correct, I was buying 20 pounds for about $2.50!).

My cooking methods are changing now. I’ve been grilling a lot in the past few months, but now I am drawn to my kitchen, to the stove.

I found this recipe in the October issue of Real Simple magazine. I made a few adjustments to the original (of course) and it turned out to be excellent. Jack, who is not particularly fond of baked chicken breasts, loved it (as did I). The chicken was moist , the coating crisp, and the flavor of the mustard didn’t overpower the seasonings as I had expected. I served it with "buttered" parsley noodles (I love the nice, thick ones which I buy at Sam's) and steamed green beans. This was a perfect dinner for a rainy, damp fall evening.

Crunchy Herbed Chicken

½ cup parsley leaves

1 clove garlic, halved

2 ounces whole wheat bread, toasted (about 2 “regular” slices) and torn into pieces

½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs, crumbled (or a mix of oregano and basil and maybe rosemary if you want)

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

2 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pound a little between waxed paper sheets if they are too thick)

Heat oven* to 400F.

In a food processor, pulse the parsley until chopped, add the garlic and pulse a couple of times, and add the torn toast pieces, dried herbs, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Pulse until crumbs form. Add olive oil and pulse two or three times to combine. Transfer to a plate.

Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the mustard over both sides of each piece of chicken and place on the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to help the crumbs to adhere. Place gently into the prepared baking dish, press any remaining crumbs onto the top surfaces of the chicken, spray with cooking spray, and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.

* - I used our toaster oven as not to heat the big oven for just 2 pieces of chicken.

And look at those beans! :) My Roma beans finally started producing, albeit late, so I am happily (finally) picking something out of that garden! I adore this type of pole bean, it has such a great flavor.

Oh, I have to apologize to the cantaloupe. Before we went on vacation, earlier this month, I had mentioned that the volunteer cantaloupe were the only things producing in my garden, along with pitifully few tomatoes and some yellow squash. The day that we left for the beach, I picked 13 cantaloupe and they lasted through our vacation.

Most were small, only about 5” across, but very sweet and delicious—a nice surprise from an otherwise disappointing garden this summer!