In helping to celebrate McCormick’s 125th anniversary, we’re talking about how flavor and food has (or does) impact all of our lives and I’m taking on the McCormick Go 4 Gourmet Challenge.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone has a story right? Flavor and food is something that’s universal – every family, country, state, religion, ethnicity has a different story. I have thousands of flavor stories, seeing as food and flavor was (and is) something my whole life has pretty much revolved around. Ever since I can remember I’ve bonded with family and friends over food, whether it meant I was cooking for them, they were cooking for me or we were sharing a meal together somewhere else. Some of my fondest and most distinct memories are accompanied by food.
Every time I taste my grandmother’s old-fashioned holiday dressing, it takes me back to Christmas as a child when I’d be her little seasoning tester, almost always advising her to add more salt. When I make my Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs, I’m immediately transported back to our family dining room table, where my brother and I would slurp each spaghetti noodle individually, and consequently splatter sauce all over my Mother’s beautiful placemats and napkins. Each time I smell burgers cooking on the grill, I think of the scorching Kansas summers that were filled with hot dogs and sweet tomatoes drowned in sugar. Even something as silly as seeing a box of cracker jacks evokes memories of playing in my Grandparent’s kitchen as a kid.
Today, as an adult, I’m still creating “flavor” memories and using food and flavor to connect with the people I surround myself with. I still go over to my parent’s house, where my Mom and I cook together, my Dad smokes meat and we eat, drink and just enjoy each other. I still make hundreds of cookies around the holidays with my Grandmother and Mother (and hopefully daughter someday). I cook meals for my husband with ingredients I’ve never used before. I have my girlfriends over for appetizers and gossip. All of it surrounded by food in some way, shape or form. It’s never ending.
Now for the challenge. I was to come up with a recipe using the ingredients McCormick sent me from their Go 4 Gourmet program; and in my box?
Mediterranean Sea Salt
I think when seeing pumpkin, most minds would gravitate towards the sweet, but seeing as I had my fair share of sweets over the holiday, my mind immediately starting churning out savory ideas. At first I was going to go with pasta, but then thought about one of my favorite go-to weeknight meals; a simple crispy chicken coated in panko breadcrumbs. I love it, because it’s super easy and quick, perfect all year round and always delicious. When I saw the marcona almonds, I thought maybe I could transform my go-to into something completely new and just a tad bit fancier, so that’s what I did!
For the breading, I threw a handful of the almonds into the food processor then tossed the ground almonds with a little bit of bread crumbs and the mediteranean sea salt. The chicken gets coated in a little egg white then dunked into the almond mixture and is cooked in a little bit of olive oil and butter until golden brown and crispy. My chicken breasts were ridiculously ginormous, even after I pounded them out, so I finished them off in the oven for just a few minutes, if yours are small enough, they should finish be able to cook through on the stove.
Typically when I do my crispy chicken, I’ll do a quick lemon butter sauce or throw together an easy vinaigrette of some sort to drizzle over, but this time I knew the chicken would pair perfectly with the pumpkin and cinnamon; so I whisked the pumpkin puree with a little bit of cream (you could also substitute half and half), the Saigon cinnamon and a little bit of parmesan cheese.
And wowza, is this sauce to die for. Creamy with a subtle warmth from the cinnamon, just a hint of pumpkin flavor and a tad nutty from the parmesan cheese. The cinnamon really adds a depth of flavor that I love, it’s almost too subtle to even distinguish what the spice is, but you know something is there in the background.
I see a cinnamon pumpkin lasagna in Cooking for Keeps’ future…..
Be sure to check out all of the other flavor stories and entries on the McCormick’s anniversary site, everyone’s story is different!
- ½ cup almonds, skins removed
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg white + ½ tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons McCormick Mediterranean Sea Salt
- 2 chicken breasts, pounded out to a ¼ inch thickness
- 1 cup cream
- ¼ cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ teaspoon + ⅛ teaspoon McCormick Saigon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- In a food processor, grind almonds until fine. Toss with bread crumbs and sea salt. Sprinkle chicken with a little bit of salt and pepper.
- Coat chicken in egg white and then coat in almonds and bread crumbs.
- Heat a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and ½ tablespoon of butter of a medium heat.
- Cook chicken until golden brown, crispy and cooked through.
- While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan simmer cream for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Whisk in pumpkin, cinnamon and cheese. Simmer another minute or so until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon sauce over crispy chicken.
This post was kindly sponsored by McCormick Gourmet as a part of their 125th anniversary and Go 4 Gourmet Challenge. All opinions and thoughts, of course, are my own.
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