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Cooking with Larry: Sweet & Savory

Sweet and savory is one of my favorite flavor combinations. About five years ago, I had a dish called "Cap'n Crunch Chicken" at a German restaurant in Long Island. It was tasty enough that the dish was stuck in the back of my mind ever since that time. When I was thinking about what I would write for this month's cooking post, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try and recreate that recipe. Back when I first tried this chicken it was served with vegetables. I, however, wanted to serve it with penne pasta in a creamy sauce, so I made a butternut squash alfredo. Perfect combination of sweet and savory.

Get ready to put in some work on the treadmill, because this recipe is a gut buster!

To make the butternut squash puree:

Cut one large butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Cover the skin in your favorite cooking oil and let that bake for about an hour (or until the meat of the squash is soft enough to be pierced with a fork). After letting the squash cool, separate the meat from the skin. Discard the skin and place the squash in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Easy enough, right?

For the alfredo sauce:

  • 1 Cup of heavy cream
  • 1 Cup of parmesan reggiano (shredded)
  • 16 ounces of butternut squash puree
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • a few cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt/pepper to taste

Saute the garlic and onions in the sauce pan. When they are slightly translucent, add the white wine and let that reduce to about half. Add the heavy cream, parmesan cheese, squash puree and stir until smooth. Let that simmer a bit so the flavors marry.

NOTE: This sauce can be pretty thick. If you want to thin it out a little bit, stir in some chicken or vegetable stock before serving over the pasta.

For the chicken:

It took me 3 preparations to get the chicken cooked to satisfaction. Coating the chicken in only Cap'n Crunch did not work because the breading didn't stick to the chicken very well. Flouring the chicken before covering it with the crunch powder helped a little, but I still was not completely satisfied with the outcome. I found that mixing the crunch powder with panko breadcrumbs was the key to get a nice crunchy breading that actually stuck to the chicken.

Put the Cap'n Crunch into a food processor or blender and blend until the nuggets are finely ground. Mix the Cap'n Crunch with 3 cups of panko breadcrumbs and set aside.

Now it's time to coat the chicken with our bread crumb mixture. This is quite a process and we want to be sure that the crunch mixture sticks to the chicken. You have to coat the chicken in flour, then dip it in the egg, then coat the chicken with the Cap'n Crunch/panko mixture then finally transfer the chicken to the frying pan. This can get messy, so being organized helps. Here is how I set up my workstation, from left to right: Pan containing chicken -> pan containing flour -> bowl with whipped eggs -> crunch mixture - > frying pan. It's like an assembly line of chickeny goodness. I used olive oil to fry the chicken, but most cooking oils will work, so feel free to switch if you have a preferred oil type.

Optional: I marinated the chicken for 24 hours in a buttermilk, raspberry pecan marinade overnight. This was a bit risky, but it added a ton of flavor in the final product.

Be mindful to not overcook the poultry - the breadcrumbs will cook fast so keep an eye on that. Otherwise, simply serve the chicken with your pasta, and enjoy!

Have you tried any recipes that put a gourmet twist on a previously less-than-gourmet item (for example, Captain Crunch)? If so, we'd love to hear your recipe and tips!

About the Author: Larry is a friend of House Party. Larry currently resides in the East Bay region of California. He enjoys all things wine related, and spends a lot of his free time in Napa and Sonoma learning about wine. Larry is also a Mixed Martial Arts enthusiast. He enjoys practicing, watching, analyzing and commentating on all things MMA. Larry also enjoys cooking, fine dining, entertaining and hanging out with Maximus, his Jack Russell Terrier.

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