30 June 2013

Peachy Hazelnut Crusted Chicken

What's the first thing you crave when you see fresh peaches at the market?  You probably imagine sinking your teeth into that fuzzy exterior, the scent of freshly baked peach pie and crumbly dutch cobblers.  Thoughts of sweet and tender fruit dance like sugar plum fairies around in your head. Odds are you are not being swept away by thoughts of sriracha and a gas grill...unless you're me.  As soon as these pop up in the produce section, I pounce thinking of one thing:  barbecue sauce.  It's time to pull out the chicken and hazelnuts to make my all-time favorite chicken recipe - Peachy Hazelnut Crusted Chicken.  Oh yeah.

A few years ago I came across this amazing homemade Fiery Peach Barbecue Sauce from Kitchen Confidante.  The hubs had been craving ribs and absolutely loves peaches, so it seemed like the perfect recipe in which to kill two cravings with one stone.  The rib recipe was extremely tasty, but while playing with the leftover sauce, we found that we actually preferred it on chicken.  This spicy, fruity sauce is peachy keen with juicy tenders breasts.

I've made this sauce several times and we've eaten it many different ways.  But when I added a hazelnut crust, I knew our days of experimenting were over.  The hubs and I are completely bamboozled, hooked and obsessed by this pairing.  You still have the fiery fruit flavor of the peach sauce, but with a crunchy hazelnut exterior that is amazing when grilled.  The nut coating is really unique as it gives the breading a more savory, meaty consistency than the traditional panko or bread crumbs.  The hazelnuts toast as they cook for a fabulous roasted flavor that is wonderful with the sauce.

In the summer, we like to make on the barbecue with a few of our favorite grill-top sides.  But we have also made this during the non-grilling season by baking it in the oven.  Grilling tends to give you a bit more charring and toasting to the crumb coating while the oven provides you with a more even exterior.  I love it both ways, and our cooking method depends mostly on the weather and our mood.  But if you're going for the grill, be sure that your grating is very well oiled.  Otherwise, you can say goodbye to that delicious crumb coating as it sticks and then falls into the flames below.

Excuse me, I have a sudden urge to go grill some chicken.....

Peachy Hazelnut Crusted Chicken
minimally modified from Kitchen Confidante 
  • 12 oz chicken tenders (about 6-7)
  • 1/3 c Peach Sriracha Barbecue Sauce (recipe below)
  • 3/4 c finely chopped hazelnuts (about 2 1/2 oz)
  • 1/3 c panko
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • additional sauce for drizzling
Place the chicken tenders in a ziplock bag and pour in the barbecue sauce.  Seal the bag, then shake until the tenders are completely coated.  Place the bag in a pie dish in the refrigerator (to catch any leakage the may occur).  Marinade for at least 4 hours.

In a second pie dish (or other large, shallow bowl) combine the hazelnuts, panko, salt and pepper, then stir until well mixed.  Remove the tenders from the refrigerator and set on the side of the breading dish, then remove the bag from from the dish and set on the opposite side of the breading bowl.  Transfer a chicken tender from the bag into the breading mixture, coating both sides well.  Remove coated chicken to the now empty pie dish that previously held the bag.  Repeat with the remaining tenders.  If you have extra breading at the end, take the tenders back through for another coating.  Spray the coated tenders with non-stick.

Grill:  Prior to preparing your breading, turn on the grill to medium heat.  By the time the tenders are ready to cook, the grill will be hot.   With a heat-safe brush or paper towel, wipe the grilling surface with canola or vegetable oil until well coated (this will help prevent the breading from sticking).  Place the tenders on the oiled grilling surface and cook for about 4 minutes on each side until the chicken is cooked and the breading is golden.  Exact cook time will vary based on the size of your tenders.

Oven:  Before you make the breading, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place a cookie cooling rack over a baking sheet and spray with non-stick.  After breading the chicken, transfer to the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through (again, time will vary based on the size of your tenders).

Serve the tenders with an extra drizzle of peach barbecue sauce.  Great with your favorite summer sides or sliced over a salad of spinach, peaches and hazelnuts.

Peach Sriracha Barbecue Sauce
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 c diced onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup orange juice (we use pulp free)
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c Sriracha (you could half this for a milder sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 c peaches, peeled and sliced (fresh or frozen)
Place a large saucepan over medium heat.  When the pot is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan, then add the onion and cook about 4 minutes, until onions are fragrant and translucent.  Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds before adding the water, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, orange juice, brown sugar, Sriracha and salt.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  

After the sauce is done simmering, add the peaches and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until fruit is tender when poked with a fork.  Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  (We broke our glass blender by trying to process this as soon as it was done cooking - the steam and heat were too much.  Definitely worth the extra 10 minutes of cooling time .)

Transfer the cooled mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Wipe any residual chunks out of the pan with a paper towel and place back over medium heat.  Pour the processed sauce through a sieve back into the pan.  Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened to your liking.  It will thicken a bit more once cooled.  Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several months.  

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