Crusted Baked Chicken with Mozzarella and Pesto



4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (approx 1/4 teaspoon of each)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
11/2 cups crushed potato chips (I used olive oil chips; use whatever you prefer)
8 slices fresh Mozzarella

1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup cut flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lightly toasted pistachios, pine nuts or walnut pieces
Sea salt to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (or a little more depending on how loose you like pesto sauce)
1/4 cup Parmesan — shreds or coarsely grated


In a food processor, pulse together basil, parsley, garlic, nuts, Parmesan, and salt until it forms a paste, wiping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Slowly pour in the olive oil as you continue to pulse to create a smooth sauce. Pour into a small bowl and add a film of olive oil over the top of the pesto to help keep it vibrantly green. You can make this in advance and refrigerate it. Bring it to room temperature before using.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a baking rack on a half-sheet baking pan lined with parchment. Oil the baking rack lightly. Place baking sheet so that chicken will be a few inches from broiler.

Place flour on a large plate and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add milk and vanilla to a medium bowl. Fill a separate medium bowl with potato-chip crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Stir to combine.

Dip chicken breasts into flour to coat, shaking off excess, then dunk into the milk, letting any excel run off, then roll through potato chip mixture, and press chips onto chicken breasts. Place breasts on the prepared baking rack. Pat any remaining potato chip coating onto the top sides of breasts.

Bake breasts until crust is golden and breasts are just cooked through, approximately 18 – 20 minutes. Check at 18 minutes with a meat thermometer. When it reaches 160 degrees in thickest part of the breast, it is ready.

Remove chicken from oven and turn on broiler. Place 2 pieces of mozzarella on each breast. Return to oven and broil just until cheese is bubbling, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let rest five minutes. Smear a spoonful of pesto over each breast, or serve it at the table so diners can add it to taste.

Serves 4