Almond-crusted chicken a juicy dish

I never really understood why people like to pound chicken breasts to flatten them before cooking. I guess it’s supposed to make the meat more tender and possibly allow them to cook faster. I suppose that works well, especially if you are planning to fry the chicken in a stove-top skillet, but I generally prefer to bake my chicken in the oven.

Nevertheless, I had a great recipe for almond-crusted chicken that called for flattening the breasts during preparation. So, like most cooks taking on a new recipe, I decided to follow blindly and do what it suggested.

The recipe called for placing the individual breasts between pieces of thick plastic wrap before beating them with the flat edge of a meat mallet. OK, first I have to admit, I don’t even own a meat mallet. Second, I feared the plastic wrap was far too thin to survive a beating that I envisioned would leave me with a splattering of a big juicy mess. I decided to improvise.

Instead I slipped the breasts one-by-one into a nice thick plastic freezer bag, and perused my kitchen utensil drawer before making my decision. … I proceeded to flatten them with repeated pounding of, well, a rolling pin.

Certainly, the chicken probably would have ended up more flattened had I used a traditional mallet. Still, the plan worked out well enough.

I proceeded with the recipe as spelled out. The chicken cooked up nicely, but in the end, here are a few tips I can offer.

First, don’t overcook. There is a fine line between a bit of a crispness to the panko / almost crust and a hard coating on an overcooked, dry piece of poultry.

Check the dish often, but don’t feel the need to turn the food while it’s cooking. Cooking on one side will do the trick just fine.

I covered the baking dish with a simple loose-fitting piece of foil. I suggest you remove the covering for the last 15 minutes or so to allow the poultry to brown a bit and get a little crispy.

Finally, you (not the recipe) should decide whether or not to flatten the meat before cooking. This dish was delicious, but the next time I make it, I’ll probably opt instead against pounding the meat. I prefer my poultry plump and juicy. I don’t think pounding the meat made it any more tender and, in fact, I think it took away much of the juiciness.