Monday, March 23, 2009

Pistachio Crusted Chicken or Pork

Since coming down with the plague early on last week and still having not fully shaken it, the fella and I have been falling back on a lot of old favorites for cooking. That means a lot of African, Indian, and Chinese food modified to fit the diet. This usually works out pretty well but requires the fella to take on the cooking since I don't have the stamina for food that requires constant attention or the brain power to understand the multi step directions. And he has actually been thrilled to be off dish washing duty and back to cooking up a storm.

Our other fall back recipes are simple but interesting meat dishes from Ms. love her or hate her Rachel Ray. This pistachio crust is out of this world and requires the level of cooking skills I'm up to in my weakened state. The hardest part is shelling a million pistachios without eating all of them, I just can't bring myself to pay $3 more for pre-shelled nuts so it's a necessary evil. The fella and I actually had fun with this chore on this particular day, he shelled nuts and pitted olives while I did the intricate vegetable chopping for the side dish and we had a nice assembly line going on. Both dishes got finished at the same time and we had a nice relaxing Sunday dinner.

We've done this yummy pistachio thing with both chicken and pork and both are equally yummy. Even if you're not on a crazy French diet I would suggest leaving out the breadcrumbs in the original recipe however. The pistachio crust by itself is subtle and well rounded, giving the meat a crunch and a nice flavor. With the breadcrumbs the garlic and lemon disappears and it tastes like homemade Shake 'n' Bake. No thanks. If that's your thing feel free to bread crumb it up.

This goes surprisingly well with Boulud's fussy Tapenade Salad. I can only imagine what would happen with overly perky Rachel Ray and snobby Daniel Boulud actually at the same table. It's a rather amusing mental image but I'm not sure which one would walk away alive in the end. Hmm. Their food together however made the best meal I've had in a while.

Pistachio Crusted Chicken or Pork

1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
(original recipe also calls for 1/4 cup breadcrumbs which help nuts stick to meat but dulls the flavor of the dish and adds an odd texture when baked)

4 chicken breasts or boneless pork chop, 1-inch thick
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup oil (I only use enough to keep meat from sticking to pan)

Preheat the oven to 400°. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

Using a food processor, finely grind the nuts, garlic, lemon peel and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer to a shallow bowl (whisk in breadcrumbs if you're going to use them.)

Season the chicken or pork with salt and pepper. Dip each piece of meat into the egg, then coat with the nut mixture.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the meat and cook until golden, about 2 minutes on each side then place on the baking sheet. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 140° for pork or 170° for chicken, about 20 minutes.

Original recipe from Everyday With Rachel Ray.

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