Meet the Bussmann Family Hall of Fame “Cheez-It Chicken”. This chicken crossed the road and headed to my kitchen a few weeks ago, following the posting of my Amber Ale Turkey Chili, made in part of Fat Tire, a New Belgium Brewing Company Amber Ale.
A few emails later I was in contact with Michael Bussmann of New Belgium Brewing for a good recipe and a beer pairing to go with it. Michael first joined New Belgium Brewery in 2008 as a bicycle repair guy/truck driver on the Tour de Fat (a philanthropic bicycle carnival). The recipe he very graciously shared is one that has been his family since the 70’s; Cheez-It Chicken. It’s kind of genius – just a few ingredients, really easy to make, and big bold flavors. A few good sides would be Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli.
And what to drink with your meal? The New Belgium Ranger IPA. “The spiciness of the cayenne will compliment the hops in the Ranger. The savory (cheesy/salty) nature of this dish is perfect for the dry finish of Ranger as well. A great pair”. I would agree, it was hard to stop at a few…
Growing up our menu was fairly limited, but we had a family dinner every single night. My dad would get home about 6:30, my brothers and I would be waiting in the kitchen, bothering my mom as she finished cooking, and dinner would follow shortly after. We never went out, ever. I think my first restaurant experience was in high school (or, at least I remember it that way). We always had pasta on Sundays. An Italian family, we either went to my Grand Ma’s house (off the boat from Naples), or my mother made sauce and meat balls at home. And we always had breakfast for dinner on Tuesdays. But every other night we had chicken. It was generally accompanied with steamed broccoli and either potatoes or buttered noodles. My mother had countless variations on this theme: plain breasts (seriously, plain), chicken with corn on it, salsa chicken, peppered chicken, yogurt chicken, breaded and baked chicken, chicken with a slice of American cheese melted on top, she even made an orange chicken (it was chicken breasts with orange slices baked on top). But the best was Cheez-It Chicken. In her lasting search for new and exciting ways to bake (boneless, skinless) chicken breasts, she occasionally had to think outside the box. Crushed snack crackers as breading brought new life into the culinary trends of our dinner table. After the first eating of Cheez-It Chicken I looked at my mother in two new ways, 1. She was a genius. 2. She was very cruel for not making this new found delicacy every single night. Since my brothers and I have all left the house, she and my dad have expanded their eating habits a bit, bringing in things like spinach and pork chops (and salt). But they still eat together every night. Regardless of what’s on the table, being together at dinner is something that will never lose its importance in my family.
Michael carries on family tradition with his wife and daughter, and makes is a point to cook and eat as a family as often as possible.
So go ahead and try it~ this is one pumped up nugget sure to please your taste buds!
Chicken waiting to be fried…
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 box if Cheez-It crackers
- 1 teaspoon Cheyenne pepper (or more as you see fit)
- Black pepper
- Plain yoghurt (for baked version)
- 2 eggs (for fried version)
- The first step is the same for both the baked and the fried chicken:
- Place Cheez-It crackers in the bowl of a food processor and mix until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add Cheyenne pepper. Taste the mixture to see if you might want to add more. If you do, add a little bit more at a time and taste as you go.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Lightly pound chicken with meat mallet to tenderize and for even thickness
- Sprinkle chicken breast with some salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
- Dredge chicken breasts in yogurt and then in Cheez-Its. Make sure breast is fully coated.
- Coat baking dish with non stick cooking spray, and place chicken in baking dish (I use a cast iron skillet for baking)
- Bake at 350 until done - roughly 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the breast. XXXXX
- Place palm of your hand on top of each chicken breast, press firmly down onto the cutting board and starting at the thick side of the breast slice chicken in half.
- Place chicken on wax paper, fold paper over as to create an envelope covering the meat, then use meat mallet to bang out a skinny piece of meat.
- Slice into strips.
- Beat two eggs in a bowl, then dredge chicken strips first in egg, then in Cheez-It.
- Use a cooling rack to place chicken as a holding place as you finish up the breading process. Keeping the strips on a rack vs. a plate keeps them from becoming soggy prior to frying.
- Heat canola oil/vegetable oil over medium high heat in stove top skillet. Gently pan fry until cooked thru, about 2 minutes per side.
- Let chicken sit on a paper towel for a few minutes before serving.