Wednesday dinner: Crispy baked chicken breasts

I have a weakness for fried chicken. I really don’t care who makes it: Aretha Franklin, Colonel Sanders, hipsters…okay, maybe the hipsters. The problem I have is that the crackling goodness of the coating is always overwhelmed by the rattle and hum of my rising cholesterol. Therefore, I avoid it.

Finding a healthier, oven-baked option that tastes good is difficult. The great part about deep frying is that the chicken stays moist while the outside gets crispy. The key to a good oven-baked chicken is to coat it properly. It needs to prevent moisture loss while tasting good. The geniuses at Chow get as close as I’ve ever been with their offering.

WHAT WORKED: The coating. Mayonnaise and milk plus panko and gruyere locked the juiciness in and gave it a salty flavor.

WHAT DIDN’T: Me. I bought a bag of kale at Wegmans that was long expired (silly me…I thought the produce department rotated the stock), so tonight’s side dish was…more chicken.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: Not much. She was working hard at getting The Kid to the kitchen. Dinner was in stages.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I think so. This would go well with a bowl of pasta.

Crispy baked chicken breasts

  • 2 cups panko
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese, such as Emmentaler or Gruyère (I went with the latter)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more to oil the wire rack
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (I went with The Kid’s 2% milk…she won’t miss it)
  • 4 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and fit it with a wire rack. Lightly oil the rack and set aside.

Place the panko, cheese, and measured oil in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper, and use your hands to combine evenly. Place the mayonnaise, milk, and thyme in another shallow dish, season with salt and pepper, and whisk to combine. Set both dishes aside.

Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise. Place 1 piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness (about 1/2 inch) with a meat mallet or the bottom of a frying pan. Place on a large plate or second baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dip 1 piece of chicken in the mayonnaise mixture and turn to coat. Then dip it in the panko mixture, turn to coat, and press the mixture onto the chicken to adhere. Place the breaded chicken on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, leaving at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of space between the pieces. Bake until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, about 40 minutes.

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