Infrequently, I try a recipe that someone hands off to me. This one came from the Oprah website, a site known for a variety of offerings yet never a recipe that I’ve enjoyed without alteration or enhancement. This recipe was no different—so I made it not once but twice.
The first time I followed the recipe to the letter. It was overwhelmingly salty, had a bitter aftertaste of stale bay leaf (even though mine was fresh) and lacked pizazz but made me aware I had ingested it, all night long, in the form of indigestion. I can’t account for the reasons why since I used all fresh ingredients, but every so often the chemistry just isn’t quite romantic.
The second time I made it, it met with success. I omitted the brining process. I treated it to a buttermilk bath, with a hint of lemon, for the day, instead. I used the Parmesan that is added to the pistachio, but I coated both sides of the chicken—which wasn’t in the Oprah version. I understood the pistachio as something to add texture but the dish lacked a good crunch with the first version of coating only one side.
I used unsalted pistachios and brought out the flavor by toasting them. The Parmesan added enough saltiness by itself to make up for the unsalted nuts.
I also used my own Panang Red Curry Sauce resplendent with fresh lemongrass sans thyme and rosemary, omitting the chicken stock using coconut milk exclusively, omitting the wheat flour using rice flour to coat the chicken instead, finally replacing grape seed oil with peanut oil for more flavor—and ended up with a wonderful dish that was delicious!
In the end, I streamlined the recipe, omitted offending and conflicting flavors and served a delightful meal with healthy proteins dressed in a flavorful sauce over a bed of healthy rice noodles. In order to work in some nutritious vegetables, I served a vegetable-rich green salad with two cheeses as a side.
Here is my version of the original Art Smith Recipe, that was featured on Oprah’s website (Oprah Recipe) and MNBC’s website in video form (MSNBC recipe video) as well even though the two versions were different.
Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Coconut Chili Ginger Sauce
Created by Chef Art Smith and Altered by Madame Donna C.
Coconut Chili Ginger Sauce
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 2 shallots , minced
* 2 blades lemongrass , chopped
* 3 pieces (1/2-inch) fresh ginger , thinly sliced
* 1 cup sweet white wine
* 3-4 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
* 2-4 tablespoons Chinese black bean chili sauce
* 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter , softened and cut into pieces
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 4 boneless chicken breasts
* 1/2 quart buttermilk
* 6 ounces or more, UNsalted pistachios , shelled and toasted
* 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 cup rice flour or AP flour
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Peanut oil to taste
For the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the tablespoon of butter, the shallots, lemongrass, ginger slices and wine. Reduce to half.
Add the red curry paste and Chinese black bean chili sauce and reduce to half again.
Add the coconut milk and reduce to half a third time. Remove from the heat and whisk the bits of butter into the sauce until all the butter has been incorporated.
If you are trying to eliminate fats, you can leave this out. The purpose of the butter is to add a glossy sheen to the sauce which is for aesthetics, not necessarily taste.
Season with salt and pepper. If you reheat, do not allow the sauce to boil or the butter will separate.
For the chicken: Cut breasts in half.
With a meat mallet, pound until 1/4-inch thick and place in a non-reactive bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken, cover, and let sit for at least 2 hours or more in the refrigerator.
In a food processor, place the pistachios and the parmesan cheese. Pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture is finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 250°.
Place the rice flour in another bowl and season with salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and prepare it for assembly.
Preheat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat with a thin coating of peanut oil.
Remove one breast, shake off any excess buttermilk and dust the breast with flour on each side.
Dip both sides of the chicken back in the buttermilk and press pistachios onto each side.
Repeat that step with all the chicken. Place the chicken in the sauté pan and cook for 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken breast.
Turn and cook the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Place in the oven to finish cooking for 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove, let rest for 5 minutes and then slice to serve with the Coconut Chile Ginger Sauce.
As I stated above, I served the Pistachio-encrusted Chicken over a nice mound of rice noodles with a generous serving of Panang Red Curry Sauce.
On the side, a vegetable-laden green salad counterbalanced the spicy curry with a cool and mild flavored complimentary taste experience.