As I’ve mentioned before, chicken breasts need a lot of help. I would almost always rather have a leg, a thigh or even a wing over a breast any day because, of course, they’re fattier and that equals better. But if you insist on white meat I think you need to do two things: cook it absolutely perfectly, and graft as much flavor onto it as humanly possible.
This recipe is a great example of what Cook’s Illustrated excels at: taking a very familiar idea and finding a few easy adjustments that elevate it above average and make it something worth cooking. In this instance the innovations are in the coating — mixing the nuts up with a little panko and pasting it all on with browned butter.
But back to cooking it perfectly. The breasts need to get to 160 and for this you will really benefit from owning a good thermometer. This is my favorite and I admit it’s not a small investment. But it’s changed the way I cook and I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t think you wouldn’t fall in love with it. If you can’t justify a little culinary retail indulgence right now, do your best with whatever thermometer you have or just make a small cut in the thickest part of the breast and make sure it’s not pink.
This was some very delicious chicken and fairly reasonable for a weeknight (I say fairly because anything breaded seems to require three dredging dishes and all of a sudden you’ve got a countertop full of plates and flour and egg).
Nut-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Lemon and Thyme is on page 315.