Sunday, April 18, 2010

Egyptian-Spiced Chicken...

I tend to buy two or three of those giant packs of chicken breasts from Costco and spend a morning breaking them down into individual smaller pieces (that is, when we're not getting ready to move!) - part of it I grind with dark meat and freeze into one pound discs, with the rest being divvied up into four and six ounce portions. I like to freeze those by themselves first, then pack them together and pull out just what I need without having extra to worry about.

Being pulled out in singles allows them to thaw in a snap and makes for speedy dinners without much pre-planning, which is just what I needed after having tonight's dinner plans change and switching the main protein to this Egyptian-Spiced Chicken instead.

The title "Egyptian-Spiced" comes from the blend used to coat the chicken called dukka (or dukkah), which typically contains some sort of nut, cumin and sesame seeds, along with an assortment of other spices. This mix uses sliced almonds for the nut, with coriander seeds, fresh thyme and black peppercorns standing in for the other spices. To bring out the natural richness in a few of the ingredients, we first toasted the almonds, sesame seeds, cumin and coriander in a dry skillet until lightly golden. Being fairly chunky, the mixture does need to be broken down to coat the chicken evenly - we accomplished this with a small coffee grinder we keep just for spices, but a plain old mortar and pestle, with a little muscle, would work too. Just be sure to let it cool slightly first either way.

If you just sprinkled the mixture over the chicken, certainly some of it would adhere, but a fair amount is likely to fall off to the side. To allow it to grab hold and give the chicken a deep crust, we dunked each in a beaten egg, seasoned it with salt and then ran each piece through the almond mixture. The salt is added here, rather than blended in the spice mixture, giving you the control on just how much you want to add to each chicken breast. You don't need a lot, just a sprinkle to pop the robust nature of the nutty coating.

To cook the chicken, we quickly seared it in a skillet to brown both sides, then slid the pan right in a moderate oven to finish the pieces through with a gentle hand. Ours were done in just about ten minutes, but it could be slightly less or more depending on how much heat the skillet had and your oven - it's best to use a meat thermometer so you can pull them out just as they are done (I'll usually pull breast meat out around 160 to 165 degrees as the temperature continues to rise slightly as they rest).

Moist and tender, Jeff and I both thought this was an interesting result - while it wasn't like a thunderous explosion of flavor, we enjoyed how well the spices, nuts and seeds worked in a cohesive manner with each other, yet we could still pick out the individual ingredients. The almonds were nice, but fairly subtle in the end - I'd love to try this again using a more poignant nut... perhaps hazelnuts or even pistachios.


  1. Thanks for sharing and for reminding me that I should be stocking my freezer for quick dinners. I need to remember to take the time ahead to be speedy in the end. I love reading your blog.

  2. Christina - I can't wait to get started stocking the freezer again when we move!

    DC - I've never been! Good question.