Chicken Dinners: Blackened Chicken Over Smashed Potatoes

Yvonne Ruperti

I first fell in love with blackened seasoning during my stint as a waitress at Red Lobster. This spicy cajun seasoning was one of the preparation options that you could choose from chalked fresh fish board. Most folks paired this with the catfish (good choice), and some decided to give the head cook a hard time by ordering the blackened preparation with tender flounder fillets. You see, after the fish was dipped in the seasoning, it was then seared on the flat top burner till the seasoning got dark toasted, and then flipped. The delicate flaky fish rarely made it onto the plate in one piece.

Instead of fish, I decided that this potent cacophony of spices including paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme, garlic, and pepper would be a great match for chicken breasts, which are always in the mood for some extra flavor. Knowing that I'd be cooking the lean breasts at a fairly high heat, I decided a quick brine was in order. This would give me a little added insurance in the juicy department. I certainly didn't want to be chewing on sawdust (blackened sawdust for that matter). I also took the extra step to pound the chicken into a uniform thickness. (Early attempts at cooking left me with a cooked plump part of the breast with the rest super dry). For the cooking apparatus, I first tried my trusty grill pan, but the grooves wrecked the surface of the chicken and much of the seasoning fell off. It was then that I remembered how we did it at the restaurant, and after switching to a flat surfaced skillet, it was smooth sailing (except for the smoke that emanated from the pan—setting the hood exhaust on high was a must).

Ceasar salad most often comes to mind when you think of blackened anything, but I wanted something a little more substantial for dinner. A mound of smashed potatoes proved to be the answer. The creamy mellow potatoes were a spot on backdrop to the intense flavor of the blackened seasoning. And to lighten it up a bit, I threw in a crisp and refreshing green salad on the side.