August 1, 2014 at 8:06 am

Simply the Best

Pistachio crust makes best of chicken breast

Pistachio crusted chicken with mustard sauce. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)

One freezer staple I always have on hand is chicken breasts. I like to buy the Coleman Natural chicken breasts at Costco. They are packaged and sealed in three separate sets of two, so I can easily tear off a package and freeze what I dont use right away. Truth be told, I prefer chicken thighs; they have more flavor and dont dry out like the chicken breasts do. But since there are only two of us, and my husband doesnt like the the thighs, it doesnt make much sense to cook both. So I suffer along with the chicken breasts to keep things happy (note the hint of sarcasm, please).

I have, however, discovered a few very fine recipes for chicken breasts beyond the chicken piccata or chicken chili that I usually make. For instance, the other day I discovered that I had some shelled pistachios left over from recipes I was testing for a story on ice cream, and while I was tempted to keep shoving the gorgeous green nuggets in my mouth, I stopped in mid-chew and thought theyd make a great crust for chicken.

This recipe from Bon Appetit combines the nuts with panko for a crusty coating over chicken breasts that have been slathered with mustard and herbs. The result is a moist chicken breast napped with mustard cream sauce that I served with some fresh boiled new potatoes and Michigan green beans. We cleaned our plates, and I decided I might have to rethink my chicken breast grudge. So much for suffering.

Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Mustard Sauce

1 cup shelled raw pistachios (about 4 ounces)
cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 (5-ounce) skinless boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons (about) vegetable oil
Mustard-Cream Sauce (see recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Finely grind nuts in processor. Add panko and blend, using on/off turns. Transfer to shallow baking dish. Mix mustard, basil, dill and rosemary in medium bowl. Spread mustard mixture over both sides of each chicken breast. Dip chicken breasts into nut mixture, coating completely. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 chicken breasts to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to baking sheet. Remove any leftover nuts from skillet. Repeat with remaining 2 chicken breasts, adding more oil to skillet as necessary. Bake chicken until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Spoon Mustard-Cream Sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Mustard Cream Sauce

cup dry white wine
cup chopped shallots
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Boil white wine and shallots in heavy medium saucepan over high heat until liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add whipping cream and simmer until reduced to 1 cup, about 2 minutes. Add Dijon mustard, basil and dill. Simmer 2 minutes to blend flavors. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 720 calories; 52 g fat (18 g saturated fat; 65 percent calories from fat); 21 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 173 mg cholesterol; 245 mg sodium; 42 g protein; 4 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com