Like many of you, I love chicken breasts and cook them often, so often, in fact, that I run the risk of getting bored. So lately I’ve been thinking about ways to jazz up chicken breasts, and I think I’ve hit on something that will hold my interest for a good long time: crispy, crunchy coatings.
But don’t worry: I’m not talking about fried chicken (which is great every now and then, especially when it’s made in someone else’s kitchen). Rather, with my method, you can bake the chicken in the oven but still enjoy all the crispness of deep-frying. And in the process, you also give the chicken breasts a great flavor boost.
Start with crisp crumbs, then slather on flavor
And now the million-dollar question: How do I get the crunchy crumb coating without frying? Here’s my secret: The crumbs are crisp before the chicken even goes into the oven.
The first step in my method is making the crispy crumbs. I cook extra-coarse homemade breadcrumbs in oil in a skillet until they’re browned and crunchy. Then, depending on the recipe, I’ll boost the crumbs’ crunch quotient by tossing them with another munchy ingredient like crumbled corn flakes or tortilla chips. And I might also mix in extra flavor with ingredients like fresh herbs, grated cheese, olives, or sun-dried tomatoes before pressing the mixture onto the chicken.
Pack on the crumbs
These crumbs are coarser than your average breadcrumbs, so it takes a little extra force to get the crumbs to adhere. My method is to pat a healthy amount of breadcrumbs on top of the chicken and then use the heel of my hand and a firm rotating motion to press the crumbs onto the chicken. Don’t shake off the excess when transferring the breasts to the baking sheet; you want to keep as many crumbs on the chicken as possible.