Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Walnut Chicken with Cranberry Mojo

I don't know about you but when I put on my work clothes this morning, they seemed just a little snug. Holiday eating commenced at Thanksgiving and I would be lying if I said I've watched what I've been eating since then. This time of year is just so much fun when it comes to the endless possibilities of food preparation and of course, the cookbooks designed for holiday entertaining. I received Southern Living's Ultimate Christmas Cookbook and I'm just not ready to give up the holiday tastes.

This is a lighter entree that I adapted from two recipes: a walnut chicken with dijon cream sauce and a panko bread crumb coated chicken with a cranberry "mojo" topping. I couldn't decide between the two but certain aspects of both struck my fancy so I just combined them, adapting the recipes more as I went.

The original recipe for the cranberry mojo called for real cranberries but my Whole Foods was out, so I got dried cranberries and opted to make this sauce a different way; the recipe called for the fresh cranberries to be processed in with the rest of the sauce. This probably would have added a certain thickness that my sauce lacked. Instead, I processed the mojo ingredients without the cranberries, decided to heat in a saucepan, then add corn starch as a thickening agent, followed by the dried cranberries. I also decided to bake the chicken rather than cook it in a skillet, like the initial recipes called for.

Mr. Max and I really enjoyed this dinner! The chicken was crispy yet tender, the cranberry "mojo" added a tangy, yet savory component.

Grocery List:
- 4 Chicken cutlets
- 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup flour
- Olive oil
- 1 cup of cranberry juice, from concentrate
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Start by pre-heating your oven to 420 degrees.

I prefer to use chicken cutlets because they are already trimmed of fat and excess. They are also smaller amounts of meat than a full chicken breast - which I personally prefer. If you use full chicken breasts, pound them down to about 3/4 of an inch thick.

In a small mixing bowl, combine your chopped walnuts, panko bread crumbs and flour. Using a spoon or pastry brush, spread a small amount of olive oil over each side of the chicken, then dredge the walnut mixture onto both sides of the chicken cutlets. Once coated, place the chicken breasts in an oven-safe baking dish and cook for about 20 minutes.

In a food processor, add your cranberry juice, cilantro, chopped garlic, honey, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cumin and lime juice.

Process well - this is where I felt it needed to be thicker. I poured the cranberry sauce into a saucepan on medium heat. Once slightly bubbling, I added the dried cranberries. I remembered how in other recipes such as the Waldorf Salad and the Pork Chops in Cherry Chutney Demi-Glace, I put the dried berries in hot water to let them expand before adding to the sauces. Instead of following that same procedure to use the microwave and bowl of water, I dumped them right in the simmering sauce to let them soak and expand. I added about a tablespoon of corn starch and mixed well, allowing the sauce to thicken. Now, it was perfect!

Make sure the chicken is completely cooked, then remove from oven.

Spoon the cranberry mojo over top the walnut crusted chicken and enjoy! I served with a homemade, lightened up macaroni and cheese along with a spinach salad to complete the meal.

The one thing I thought to add as I was putting it in the oven was to try adding 2 tbsp - 1/4 cup (depending on how much you are making) of brown sugar to the bread crumb/walnut mixture. I think it would bring a wonderful sweetness to the chicken and pair well with the cranberry sauce!

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