This meal is a comfort food extravaganza. Really. I was in the mood for a comforting meal and if Jessica Simpson could make this recipe then so could I. Watch Jessica and Rachael make it here (and learn from Jessica's mistake - it's a sauce, not a paste).
I made some effort to make the dish a little bit healthier, but that was really like shouting into the wind. I used 12-grain pretzels and two-percent organic milk. That's about it. But it was lean chicken breast, too, I guess. Well, you don't eat this meal because you're on a diet, let's just say that.
I also made the Veggie Salad with Sweet Honey Dressing and loved it. Simple and easy, Rachael intended it as a bottom of the jar recipe for your honey bear. Just throw in whatever crunchy veggies you like and call it a day! I substituted carrots for the celery and omitted the cucumbers. I remember when I used to buy dressing in a bottle. What was I thinking?
Here's the recipe with my comments in brackets:
4 quart-size plastic food storage bags [You could probably use one and just reuse it each time.]
4 small, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 5-ounce bag of salted pretzels, any shape
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped [The fresh is really worth it. And it's easy to chop since they already start so small.]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 tablespoons butter [If you are only making two chicken breasts, I recommend using half the butter and all the rest of the ingredients. Half the sauce was more than enough for two.]
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
3/4 pound, about 2 1/2 cups, sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
2 heaping tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, a generous handful, chopped
1/4 small yellow onion, finely chopped [too lazy for garnish the night I made it]
1 large sour dill pickle, finely chopped [same as onion]
1 lemon, cut into wedges [same as onion and pickle]
Preheat a large non-stick skillet with a 1/4-inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. [Medium was hot enough on my stove. Let's just say the first one looked more like burnt pretzel than browned pretzel.]
Sprinkle a little water into four medium food storage baggies. Place 1 chicken breast in each bag and seal it up, pushing out excess air. Use the bottom of a heavy pot or pan and pound each breast until flat, just shy of busting out of the bag. Repeat with the other 3 chicken breasts.
Place the pretzels in a food processor or blender and grind until fine. [It was hard to get mine really fine, but a few little chunks didn't seem to matter.] Transfer the ground pretzels to a shallow dish, add the thyme and some salt and pepper. Crack and beat 2 eggs in a second shallow dish with a splash of water. One at a time, coat each chicken breast in the egg and then the ground pretzels.
Add the pretzel-coated chicken breast to the hot oil. Cook in a single layer, in 2 batches if necessary, about 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until the juices run clear and breading is evenly browned. [Mine were more like 2 minutes on each side.]
[I recommend starting this step before you start frying the chicken, since it takes forever for me to get the milk to butter.] While the chicken is frying, in a medium saucepot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook flour and butter for 1 minute and then whisk in the milk. When the milk comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese and mustard with a wooden spoon. Season with a little salt and pepper, and remove cheese sauce from the heat.
Transfer the fried pretzel-crusted chicken breast to a serving plate, drizzle with the mustard cheddar sauce, then sprinkle with a little parsley, finely chopped onion and sour dill pickle. Serve lemon wedges alongside.
Yields 4 servings
A few more pictures: