The first time I tasted the famed pretzel croissant at the City Bakery in Union Square, it was like a revelation from the culinary gods. The inside was light, flaky, and buttery—everything you would expect from a French pastry. Yet the outside somehow conveyed that salty, chewy, New York street cart flavor. It was a perfect, if implausible, match, and to this day I have a hard time walking down 18th Street without stopping in and devouring one as an indulgent mid-afternoon snack.
So when I saw City Bakery chef Ilene Rosen's recipe for Mustard-Baked Chicken with a Pretzel Crust in the September issue of Food & Wine, I couldn't wait to try it.
For this dish, it's imperative to use the right kind of pretzel. I settled on Bachman's Hard Sourdoughs. (Don't be tempted to substitute miniature pretzels or pretzel sticks—once crushed they won't have the same crisp, chunky consistency.) It's also best to use the grainiest mustard you can find, as the seeds help to convey much of the tangy mustard flavor.
One of the best things about this recipe is that everything can be prepared ahead of time. I crushed my pretzels and made the mustard sauce in the afternoon, before meeting a friend for a leisurely glass of early evening wine. When I got home, it only took a minute to dredge the chicken breasts through the sauce, press in the crumbs, and slide them into the oven. Exactly 25 minutes later I tucked in to an absolutely delicious dinner that I will certainly make again. Simple and unique, this dish would make for a fun, funky dinner party when paired with a selection of good beers.
About the author: Lucy Baker is a graduate student in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, she was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently obsessed with all things fennel.
- 1/2 pound hard pretzels, coarsely crushed (about 4 cups)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup whole-grain mustard
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels until coarsely ground; you should have fine crumbs and large chunks. Transfer to a shallow bowl.
Wipe out the processor and add the oil, whole-grain and Dijon mustards, water, and vinegar and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour half the dressing in a large, shallow bowl, add the chicken breasts, and turn to coat. Dredge the chicken in the pretzel crumbs and transfer to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
Serve the chicken, passing the remaining mustard sauce on the side.