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Sunday, October 14, 2018

October 14: Pecan Chicken with Bourbon Cream Sauce

We've had quite a run of dessert recipes this week, so I'd say it's time to get a savory going. Don't you agree? And lucky for us, it's right in time for Sunday dinner! (Believe it or not, we *do* eat actual meals at my house and don't subsist on sweets alone.)

Last winter, I discovered I like bourbon. Not all bourbon, mind you, but I do have a particular fondness for Jim Beam Vanilla. (I discovered this because, though I’m not generally a beer drinker, I fell in love with Innis and Gunn. The Scottish ale is aged in oak barrels which give it a distinctive toffee/vanilla/oak flavor that, to me, makes it the best beer. I started thinking about the power of that oak-aging process. I’d noticed I also enjoyed nice, oaky chardonnays in the summer. I wondered if I’d similarly enjoy some oak-aged spirits. I googled the flavor notes I was looking for, took a list with me to the state store, and decided to dip my toe in to bourbon with this vanilla variety. So that’s how it happened, in case you were wondering.) Aside from the yummy toffee flavor profile, I find it particularly comforting as a cooler-weather spirit. It’s an alcohol you can sort of feel working its way through your body, and it warms you from within. (It also makes a delightful hot toddy if you’re into those.) 

When I saw this chicken recipe – chicken breaded with a crumb/pecan mixture, then topped with more pecans and a bourbon cream sauce– on Spicy Southern Kitchen’s blog, I knew I wanted to try it. It seemed very “fall” to me what with the pecans and warming bourbon. Thus, I immediately booked my family’s tastebuds a one-way trip down south to Deliciousville. 

Have you been? If not, I’ve got a map. So follow along, y’all.

Pecan Chicken with Bourbon Cream Sauce
Yield: 4 breasts


For the chicken:
1/2 cuppecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds), cut in half and pounded to about ½ inch thickness 
salt and pepperto taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon butter

For the cream sauce:
3 tablespoons bourbon(I used Jim Beam Vanilla!)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 Tablespoon butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Combine finely chopped pecans (since they were serving as a breading, I gave mine a quick spin in my mini chopper) and bread crumbs in a large ziptop bag. Set aside.

In a small bowl, make honey mustard glaze by stirring together 1 tablespoon each of honey and Dijon mustard. Set aside.

Prepare your chicken by cutting breasts in half along the width, then pounding to even thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap. Salt and pepper your chicken breasts, then put them in another zipper bag and pour the honey Dijon glaze in there. Massage bag so the chicken is fully coated by the glaze. (Alternately, you could do as the original recipe suggests and skip the bag in favor of brushing the honey Dijon glaze on both sides.)

Then, one at a time, add a chicken breast to the pecan/bread crumb mixture, shaking the bag to coat it well. (“It’s Shake and Bake, and I helped!”) 

Heat butter and oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add breaded chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. (The chicken isn’t intended to cook all the way through in this step—it’s just to get a nice golden sear on both sides and lock in that tasty faux-fried flavor.)
Nice and golden
Place pan-fried chicken in a casserole dish and bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, use a dry paper towel to wipe the pan in which you cooked your chicken. Add bourbon, honey, Dijon mustard, heavy cream, cayenne pepper, and pecans to pan. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted. (Full disclosure: I accidentally added the butter at the beginning of this step with the rest of the ingredients and it didn’t seem to negatively impact my outcome.) 
The magic ingredients
Saucy goodness
Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon sauce over chicken.
Moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside
Pre-sauce (and yes, that chicken breast has an extra little slice sidled up next to it)
Pecan bourbon cream sauce is a go!
Because this screamed southern cooking to me, I served it alongside mashed potatoes and green beans. (If you want to elevate your beans, take a bag of steam-in-bag green beans and microwave according to package directions. While they steam, sautéed a finely diced shallot in half a tablespoon of butter. It’s done when the shallot is soft translucent and some pieces start browning at the edges. Then toss cooked green beans in there with it and sprinkle with a little garlic salt and some pepper. I didn’t do it this time because I didn’t have shallot on hand, but I love enjoying my green beans this way.) 

From the slight heat of the cayenne to the warm bourbon cream sauce to its full-on southern charm, this meal will warm you from head to toe. 

**I have no affiliation or relationship with any of the brands mentioned or linked in this post. All opinions and experiences expressed herein are my own.**

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