Let’s face it. Most people go through ruts in creativity, get ‘writers block’ or have ‘off’ days. I like to call it being divinely uninspired. Except, in my case, I have spent the past week and a half creating recipes that have been complete flops. Case in point – my Thai fried spring rolls. I have made time and time again with excellent results – crispy wrapper around cellophane noodle, vegetable and shrimp. What happened this time? I won’t even show you the photos. I used the rice paper wrappers that are best reserved for making fresh spring rolls. They exploded in the hot oil. Boom. The filing spewed out of each roll sideways and then started to crisp up in the oil. I stopped after the explosions, put my Three Crabs brand Fish Sauce in the fridge for another day and just ate the filling out of the bowl, no wrapper needed.
Then there was the tortilla soup, the brownies made with aged egg whites and coffee from a Keurig cup, the tacos I put potatoes in and other debacles. Sure, I learned something from each errant recipe. I am even coming closer to building some very good ones.
Still, in an effort to purge my system of poorly executed recipes, I took a sabbatical (sort of) from reading blogs, pinning on Pinterest and from cooking anything but the recipes I can make without a recipe – easy ones like my Israeli Couscous, Popcorn with Herbes de Provence and Rice Krispies Treats. My sabbatical was in part due to a hectic work/travel schedule and intense grad school course load. It also gave me time to clear my mind. I did yoga with my best friend. A week later, we went to Bottle and Bottega and Painted! I have not painted anything since grammar school. Even so, this morning I blended acrylic paints to brush my painting onto a 16″ x 20″ canvas!
I did what Twyla Tharp describes in her book The Creative Habit and “scratched for inspiration” in the best and most unlikely of places. If you have not read this book, please do. It is good and Twyla Tharp is simply remarkable. I have four pages of hand written notes from the first time I read it… During my time away from new recipe creation, I continued to cook, read, write and take photos. I kept my creative habits, but shifted the outlets.
I found myself in my kitchen this evening ready to create. A while ago I made a Barefoot Contessa recipe that used some lemon zest, sea salt and pepper. I had these three ingredients in my mind. Then I rummaged my cabinets and refrigerator. The results? Chicken breasts dredged in a stand-alone breading that includes hazelnuts, shallots, garlic, lemon zest, Pecorino Romano and fresh herbs. I served this dish atop mixed field greens simply dressed with freshly squeezed lemon juice, fleur de sel, olive oil and cracked pepper. Don’t forget to squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken right before serving! It makes the dish!
Hazelnut, Lemon & Fresh Herb Crusted Chicken Breast
3-4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″ thickness
For the breading:
2 T. extra virgin olive oil + 1 tsp.
1 shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced with sea salt
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. hazelnuts, finely chopped
zest of 3 lemons, reserve 1 lemon for juice
1/4 c. fresh basil, finely chopped
1 T. fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tsp. sea salt mixed with 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs whisked with 1 T. water
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 T. oil and swirl in the pan. Once hot, add the shallot and sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. lower heat to medium and stir in Panko and hazelnuts, stirring constantly 2 minutes longer. Drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil. Remove pan from heat. Stir in lemon zest, basil, oregano and salt/pepper to taste. Transfer breading mix in a low dish or pie pan to cool. Clean frying pan.
Meanwhile, set up your chicken dredging work station. Sprinkle chicken breasts on both sides with sea salt and pepper. Put eggs whisked with water in a small pie pan or plate. In a separate plate sprinkle out the flour. The third plate will have your hazelnut breading. Dredge chicken first in egg wash, then in flour and finally in the breading.
Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add a blend of even parts canola/olive oils (~ 2 T. total). Once oil is hot, add the breaded chicken breasts, cooking 3-4 minutes on one side, then flipping and cooking 3-4 minutes on the second side. You may need to lower your heat to medium. Be careful. This chicken cooks quickly. If you have an exhaust fan, turn it on.
Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top of the chicken. Serve over mixed field greens tossed in a lemon vinaigrette.