(Wed.) Coconut Shrimp & Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Last year while vacationing in London with my sister, we enjoyed some totally awesome pub grub including  coconut shrimp & sweet chili sauce (read here for more of our overseas antics).  Of course, these weren’t necessarily healthy but they definitely were delicious – and a good meal before a night of partying!

Every now and again I have a craving for these tasty & sweet shrimp but don’t always want to waste my calories (and money) on the often disappointing version served here in the states.  What’s a girl to do?

Obviously, make your own healthier kind at home!  Served with sweet potato “fries” it’s really hard to think of this as healthy.

Coconut Shrimp & Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Key Players:

Shrimp: Another quick cooking protein, shrimp makes healthy weeknight cooking a breeze.  Although fresh is the best way to go, to make things easier, I keep high quality shrimp well sealed in the freezer until I am ready to use.  To defrost, simply run under cold water.

Sweet Potato: What is it about sweet potatoes that make them so darn appealing?  Is it the bright orange hue it brings to any dish?  Or is it the fact that with the word ‘sweet’ in the name, you think you’re eating something bad for you.  Whatever the reason, sweet potatoes are a staple in my  fridge during the cooler months.  If you are really stretched on time, simply prick the potato a few times with a fork and pop in the microwave for 3-6 minutes (depending on size).

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Buttermilk Chicken & Rocket Salad with Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

Many might argue that boneless, skinless chicken defines the word boring.  And while sometimes that thought may be true (think under seasoned and over cooked), using this piece of the chicken not only can be healthy, it can also be extremely flavorful & juicy.

Some of the best fried chicken recipes call for soaking the chicken pieces in buttermilk which not only tenderizes and flavors the meat but also helps keep it moist.  The same approach is taken here, but rather than using oil to create a crunchy outer layer, the chicken is breaded with spiced up panko breadcrumbs and baked in the oven for a satisfyingly crisp result.

While almost any side dish is well suited for this, a refreshing and spicy rocket salad pairs well with the tangy taste of the buttermilk.

Don’t be alarmed by the long list of ingredients listed for the recipe below.  You will actually be using many of the same spices more than once.  The idea is to create flavor in each layer of the chicken’s breading.

Buttermilk Chicken & Rocket Salad with Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

(serves 2)

Printable Version

2 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs)
For the Buttermilk Marinade
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4. tsp salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
For the Flour Coating
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. milk
For the Panko Coating
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (or make your own coarse, unflavored breadcrumbs)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne
For the Salad
3 cups rocket (or arugula)
Segments from 3 clementines
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Step One:  Let the chicken marinade

In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the buttermilk marinade.  Place chicken breasts into the mixture, making sure they are completely covered.  Place in the refrigerator and soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.  (Note:  You can also put marinade the chicken in a large Ziploc bag)

Step Two: Bread the chicken

In a shallow dish combine all of the flour ingredients (flour, paprika and cayenne)  until thoroughly combined.  In another bowl whisk together the three eggs and milk.  In another shallow dish,  combine the panko coating ingredients (breadcrumbs and the next four ingredients).  Remove a chicken breast from the buttermilk and coat in flour mixture.  Knock off any excess flour and dip into the egg mixture, coating evenly.  Place chicken breast in the panko breadcrumbs, again coating evenly.  Place chicken breast on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.  Repeat with second chicken breast.

Step Three: Heat things up

Place baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven on the middle rack.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until an internal temperature of 165 degrees (cooking time may be more or less depending on thickness of the chicken breast).  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the salad.

Step Four:  Mix up the salad & vinaigrette

In a small bowl combine the Dijon mustard through the pepper.  Begin to whisk in the olive oil until thickened.  Wash and dry the rocket.  Drizzle about 3 tbsp. of the dressing on the greens and toss to coat.  Divide between two plates and arrange clementine segments on top.  Place a chicken breast on each plate to serve.  Drizzle with additional vinaigrette, if desired.