Pretzel Pecan Chicken with Olive Oil Mash and Herbed Peas

Pretzels, Panko, and Texas Pecans add crunch and interest to a traditional dinner item.

Pretzels, Panko, and Texas Pecans add crunch and interest to a traditional dinner item.

I’m generally not a huge fan of chicken fingers, nuggets, etc. I blame childhood consumption of a certain restaurant’s nuggets – spongy, salty, and soggy are not adjectives one would like associated with dinnertime. I guess this is why I was really, really surprised that I liked these Pretzel Pecan Chicken Fingers so much.

I often marinade chicken in buttermilk. I find that the acids in the buttermilk help break down any toughness in the chicken and help to keep it very moist during the cooking process. I had picked up a bag of Providence Ranch Pecans during market day a few weeks back, and I tossed them into my favorite breading – panko breadcrumbs and crushed pretzels. Panko breadcrumbs are light and crisp, pretzels contribute a more substantial crunch, another layer of flavor, and an added punch of salt. This is why the recipe for the chicken does not call for additional salt; however, feel free to add it if you feel so inclined.

Mashed potatoes and peas are obvious choices for side dishes with chicken fingers. The key to having simple sides is to make them really, really well. The peas were fresh, shelled peas that I gussied up with a bit of butter and a pinch of minced parsley. If you have access to fresh, shelled peas from the farmer’s market by all means use those. If you don’t, use a steamer bag of frozen peas. My family probably couldn’t tell the difference, actually. And since I DESPISE peeling potatoes,  I usually keep varieties in the pantry that I can mash with the skins on; Yukon gold potatoes are my favorite.

Come to mama.

Come to mama.

And, lucky me, I had a bottle of Texas Olive Ranch’s Boom Blend Olive Oil. Boom blend is a specialty blend offered by the company which grows, processes, and bottles all their oils here in Texas. Rich, buttery, and decadent, this particular olive oil is one that you want front and center in any recipe. Use it as a dressing, toss it with some pasta, or mix it into some buttery Yukon Gold potatoes and you’re in heaven. Quality olive oil can take a boring side dish (like mashed potatoes) to somewhere outrageously glorious.

Admittedly, there are a lot of steps in this meal but none of them are difficult. Serve it with a nice, cold beer and you’re in comfort food heaven. Totally. Worth. It.

Planning your cooking order helps ease mealtime prep. I’m going to list each menu item separately, but here’s a general timeline to ensure everything is hot and ready all at once:

1. Fill a large pot with water and set heat to high; we need to bring the water to a boil.

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

3. Proceed with breading the chicken. (I recommend setting the chicken in the marinade at least 30 minutes but not longer than 12 hours in advance)

3. Pop chicken into the oven. Drop potatoes into boiling water.

4. Once chicken is taken out of the oven, test potatoes for tenderness. They should be done.

5. Set chicken aside to rest, mash taters, doll up your steamed peas.

6. Crack open a beer (may I recommend a TEXAN beer, such as Franconia or Deep Ellum Brewing Company?)

7. Enjoy your fancy chicken and pity the folk eating their soggy, spongy nuggets.

Hand me a spoon. I'm gonna dig right in.

Hand me a spoon. I’m gonna dig right in.

IMG_4709

Pretzel Pecan Chicken with Olive Oil Mash and Herbed Peas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pretzel Pecan Chicken Ingredients

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts , cubed OR chicken tenderloins

2 cups buttermilk

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

4 eggs

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup ground pretzel pieces

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

olive oil, for brushing the baking sheet

Directions:

1. Combine buttermilk and Dijon mustard in a baking dish. Add chicken cubes. Cover and set in fridge to marinade for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a foil lined baking sheet with a small amount of oil.

3 In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Set aside.

4 In a ziptop plastic bag, combine panko, pretzels, pecans, paprika, and pepper.

5. On your countertop, arrange from left to right: marinated chicken pieces, whisked egg, Ziptop plastic bag, and oiled baking sheet.

6. Working left to right, remove half the chicken and dip into egg wash. Place pieces into plastic bag and shake to coat. Arrange on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until juices run clear. Let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Olive Oil Mash Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. of Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced. Peeling is entirely optional.

1/4 cup fine olive oil, such as Texas Olive Ranch

2 T. butter

1/2 – 3/4 cup broth (I used vegetable) or milk

2 tsp. sea salt

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

extra olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

1. In a large pot, bring 2 tsp. of sea salt and about 6 – 8 cups of water to a boil. (Enough water come about 2 inches over potatoes)

2. Add diced potatoes and boil until very tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Drain potatoes, but do not rinse.

4. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 T. butter, and broth or milk. With the broth or milk, start with 1/2 cup and add additional liquid by Tablespoon measures until desired consistency is reached.

5. Taste and adjust salt and pepper according to preference.

Herbed Peas Ingredients:

16 ounces of peas, fresh shelled or frozen

1 – 2 T. butter

2 T. finely minced, fresh parsley

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. If using frozen peas, prepare according to package. If using fresh, shelled peas, simmer in hot water for 5 – 8 minutes until tender.

2. Toss cooked peas with butter (I start with one T. and add more, if needed) and season to taste.

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