Recipe: Pecan-Panko Chicken with Maple Mashed Potatoes and Maple Honey Mustard Sauce

Each time my parents head up to State College, they stop by Wegman’s and come home with bags and bags of groceries, and one of those bags always has some interesting new fruit or veggie for me to cook with. They spent part of this past weekend up there and, as usual, brought me a unique food to try: name (pronounced “nah-may”), a root vegetable very much like a potato. I struggled to find any information about this tuber online, but eventually stumbled upon a recipe that involved baking and mashing it. I carefully followed the directions (400*F for 1 hour), but the result was a still-fairly-hard root that ended up getting popped in the microwave until it eventually softened up. I mashed it, I added the maple cream mixture, and we prepared ourselves for our first taste of this new-to-us tuber…and, it tasted a lot like a bland potato. So, for this recipe, I’m just going to substitute in potatoes for the name, because really, the name isn’t worth it and making mashed potatoes is super easy.
This dish as a whole is absolutely delicious: nutty, crunchy pecan chicken pairs beautifully with the slight maple flavor in the buttery cream mixture that’s blended into the potatoes and a sweet-and-savory maple honey mustard sauce pulls the whole dish together.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25-35 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 2-4 chicken breasts, pounded out to 1/2 inch thickness 
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped (a food processor is best for this)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 to 1 cup flour

    For the potatoes
    • 4-8 Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into similarly sized chunks (you can use red/new potatoes or Yukon gold if desired)
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter
    • 2 tbsp. pure/real maple syrup
    • Salt and pepper

      Sauce
      • 2 tbsp. pure/real maple syrup
      • 2 tbsp. honey
      • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
      • 2 tbsp. spicy brown mustard
      • 2 tsp. soy sauce
      • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
      • 1/4 cup heavy cream
      • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
      • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
      • Salt and pepper
      Directions
      Preheat the oven to 400*F. Place the potato chunks in a large pot and add just enough water to cover them, then set aside. Pour the panko and finely chopped pecans into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Put the egg and flour into separate bowls. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, then the egg, and then the pecan-panko mixture—be sure to completely coat the chicken in each thing (there should be no raw chicken visible through the coating). Set the chicken breasts on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through, but tender. Once the chicken is in the oven, bring the pot of water and potatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through and tender. While the chicken and potatoes are cooking, add all of the ingredients for the sauce, except the heavy cream, together in a small saucepan and bring briefly to a boil. Reduce the heat, gradually whisk in the heavy cream, and reduce the heat all the way to low. In a different sauce pan, melt the butter for the potatoes and set aside. When the potatoes are done, drain them in a colander, return them to the pot, and mash them. Add the melted butter, heavy cream, maple syrup, and salt and pepper (add more cream or butter, as needed—some people like really buttery potatoes, others like them less wet) and mash to combine the ingredients—don’t over-mash them, because they will get gluey. When the chicken is done, plate each piece along side a big dollop of mashed potatoes and serve with the maple honey mustard sauce. For some added health, add roasted vegetables (I roasted broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper for 10 minutes in the oven, alongside the chicken).
      This dish is the perfect meeting of savory and sweet. The pecans, heavy cream, and copious amounts of butter make this dish decadent and comforting all at once, while the flavors of the maple syrup and honey add sweetness to the dish. The sauce could easily work as a dip for chicken tenders, but for this dish, it’s perfect as a sort of gravy for the potatoes and chicken breast.
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