Crunchy Baked Chicken with Asiago Cheese

Crunchy Baked Chicken
Before I get to this wonderful Crunchy Baked Chicken, I have to tell you…We did it! My girls and I successfully painted their room over Spring Break and nobody cried! Not even me. I must admit it was a big step for me to put aside my need for perfection (only when it comes to certain things like painting walls, most everything else I gave up on when they were in utero) and put paintbrushes and rollers in their little seven-year-old hands. There was a lot of talk beforehand about how the job needed to be taken seriously and they needed to listen and mommy can’t handle paint drips and blah, blah, blah… Amazingly, they actually heard me on all points and did an excellent job. Of course, I did the lion’s share of the work and they were closely monitored by me and by each other. Turns out it’s deeply gratifying to point out to your twin sister that she has left behind a “glob” and needs to fix it. So, the “babyish” yellow has been replaced by big kid blue and purple and everybody’s very happy. I think we often underestimate what our kids can actually do…

Here they are hard at work

Clowning around
Beautiful colors they picked!

On to the yummy chicken recipe that is sure to please the whole family. Soaking the chicken breast meat in kefir or buttermilk makes it really tender and the cheesy breadcrumb coating is a treat. I served ours with ranch dip and it was a big hit but you could use your favorite dipping sauce. I think I’ll try a simple marinara with it next time and serve it with pasta…

Don’t be afraid to play with the seasoning as far as the herbs go… If thyme and basil are not your faves, parsley, rosemary, oregano, sage or marjoram would also go well with the Asiago cheese. Go crazy.

Crunchy Baked Chicken 

(serves 4)

1 1/2 lb chicken breast, boneless and skinless (about 2 breasts)
3/4 cup *kefir or buttermilk
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cup panko style breadcrumbs (you could substitute with regular but they won’t be as crunchy)
1/3 cup grated asiago cheese, packed (substitute with Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano if necessary)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp white pepper (you can sub black)
1 1/2 TB olive oil

*Here is a link for more information on kefir in case you aren’t familiar and just think it’s gross liquid yogurt like I used to. I have become a convert and make my own but it’s also readily available in grocery stores. It’s a great way to incorporate necessary probiotics in your diet, I make a smoothie with it almost every day and it has really improved my digestion.

Slice each chicken breast into three or four equal sized pieces.

Cover with plastic wrap and pound with a mallet (flat side down) until they are uniformly thinned out. Start with a gentle pounding and only get more aggressive if they’re not yielding… no need to pound the heck out of them. You just want them of equal thickness so they will cook evenly.
Place in a pan or a bowl, give a good sprinkle of salt and pepper, then cover with the kefir/buttermilk and turn them until they are coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 12 hours or so. You don’t want to leave them to marinate for too much longer than that or you’ll end up with mushy chicken. Mine marinated for only about two hours and were perfectly tender.
About an hour before serving, preheat oven to 375 degrees and make your breadcrumb coating.
In a large, fairly shallow bowl combine breadcrumbs, grated Asiago cheese and all the seasonings, mix together with your fingers or a wooden spoon.
Stir in olive oil to coat the breadcrumb mixture.
Prepare a half sheet pan by covering with aluminum foil and place a baking rack over the top (like what you might use for cooling cookies). Remove a piece of chicken and gently shake off excess kefir/buttermilk then place it in to the breadcrumb mixture and coat completely, pressing in the breadcrumbs so they stick.
Place coated chicken on rack with a little space between each one. When all the chicken is coated and placed on the rack, bake for about 18 -20 minutes. Turn the chicken once halfway through baking – long stainless steel tongs work well for that step.
Remove from oven. Serve with your favorite sides and dipping sauce. Crunch away.
Crunchy Baked Chicken
Lovely…
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen

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