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tender with a crunch

Boneless, skinless chicken breast is one of, if not the, most popular protein choices of Americans. Why? Because quick and easy meals begin with chicken, specifically breasts.

We love chicken for its taste, healthfulness, and low-fat content, along with how easy and versatile it is to cook. And there is no question that Americans overwhelmingly prefer white chicken meat to dark. According to data from 2007, on average, we eat chicken almost 10 times a month, but on less than two of those occasions do we choose chicken thighs or legs.

The average American was eating 36 pounds of chicken a year in 1970; by 1985 this had risen to 51 pounds; in 2010 it climbed to 60 pounds. Today, over 80% of that chicken consists of breast meat.  Americans prefer white meat because it has long been touted as “healthier” than dark meat.

But when it comes to fat and calories, there is very little difference between boneless, skinless chicken breast and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. According to the Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of white meat contains 0.56 grams of saturated fat and 114 calories, and dark meat – 1 gram of saturated fat and 119 calories. Dark chicken meat is also nutrient-rich, containing higher levels of iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12 than white meat.

You see, back in the late 60’s and early 70’s poultry producers realized that they could market and advertise the slight disparity in calories and fat content between dark and white chicken meat to perpetuate the “chicken over beef” craze.  And more importantly – they could retail a “premium” poultry product that could be sold at a higher price. The chicken was a healthy option, but chicken breast was the “healthiest”, and it turned out that we consumers were willing to shell out for it.

Since you probably have chicken breasts in your freezer, I’m going to give you an easy-breezy recipe using boneless, skinless breast; but boneless, skinless thighs could be easily substituted if you would like to save a little coin.

*** Check the bottom of the recipe for a couple of variations.

Juicy and Crunchy Lemon-Parmesan Chicken

2  boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of all fat *
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons mayonnaise **
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place one piece of chicken at a time between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound until even, about 1/4-inch thick throughout.

On a flat plate mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, lemon zest, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper.

Coat each side of the chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon of the mayonnaise and then dredge chicken, on both sides, in the breadcrumb mixture.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and roll the pan to coat. Add the chicken breasts and saute until they are golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes per side.

Serve immediately with your favorite side dish or slice thinly on a diagonal and serve atop fresh greens with your favorite vinaigrette for a light main-coarse salad.

Serves 2

* Substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the breasts; pound out as directed above and cook an additional 2 minutes per side, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 180 degrees.

** For those who do not like mayonnaise (seems there’s one in every family :-/ ) substitute 3 teaspoons plain Greek yogurt and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, blended together.

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1 Marissa { 03.07.12 at 12:11 PM }

That info on chicken was actually really interesting! I don’t cook chicken much, but you I’m usually a die-hard chicken breast fan. You might have started my conversion though.

2 Marissa { 03.07.12 at 12:12 PM }

*you know

(better than anyone haha)

3 Linda Hopkins { 03.07.12 at 3:53 PM }

Marissa, I wish there was a “like” button on my blog, like there is on Facebook…. I would click it for your comments! xoox

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