Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Nut Butters (July 2010)

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

According to Margie and Natashya, “Nutrition research suggests that nuts are good for your health. Nut butters, or pureed nuts, make it easy to use nuts in cooking. Although peanut butter is a staple in North America, most popular as the star ingredient in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beloved in peanut butter cookies and other sweets, it's seldom used in preparing savory dishes. Nut butters -- including not only peanut butter but almond, cashew, and walnut butters -- are common ingredients in many Asian and African countries, used in a wide array of savory dishes. Nut butters add complex & interesting flavors to dishes, provide body & thickness to sauces, and can be used to replace the dairy fats or other oils in recipes.”

The challenge this month was made a bit more interesting by requiring that we use our nut butters in a savory recipe. Margie and Natashya gave us a few recommendations and I chose to use the one for Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms.

The recipe is supposed to take 30 minutes start to finish and seemed to include ingredients that were normal and easy to deal with. The nut butter came together very easy. The food processor did all the work! The rest of the dish also seemed to come together fairly easy, though I have trouble cooking meat of any kind on the stovetop without setting off the fire alarms, turning on fans and opening doors (Did my mom teach me this method?! Love you mom!).

I doubled the cream/sauce recipe because I like my dishes to be saucy. Cooking with mushrooms can be tricky for me as well. I am not sure I have quite mastered it yet….but, after eating this dish I think I have discovered that I am not a big fan of dishes where mushrooms are the star. I do ok if they are a background flavor or ingredient, but I found myself picking around them in this dish to get to the “good stuff” … the chicken, noodles and pecans! The dish overall was very good, but I did not end up eating the leftovers because of the, cook and learn!

If you want to see the other options and recipes for other nut butters, visit The Daring Kitchen’s post for this challenge. They even have a downloadable, printable PDF file there.

Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms
Yield: 4 servings
Recipe notes: Substitute your favorite pasta or rice in place of the egg noodles. Use fresh rosemary or parsley in place of thyme if you prefer.

Pecan Cream:
3/4 cup (180 ml) coarsely chopped pecans*, toasted
1 cup (240 ml) water
¾ teaspoon (3 ml) salt, more as needed
½ pound (225 g) egg noodles or pasta
4 (6-ounce / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

1 tablespoon (15 ml) deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped shallots
½ pound (225 g) mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves
Chopped pecans, (optional garnish)

1. Prepare pecan cream. Grind pecans in a food processor for about a minute or so until smooth, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside pecan cream. (*If starting with prepared pecan butter, blend ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (90 ml) pecan butter with the water and salt until smooth.)

2. Cook noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.

3. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.

4. Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits. If needed, add another teaspoon (5 ml) of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh thyme to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.

5. Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Add a scoop of the mushroom pecan sauce on top of noodles. Lay sliced chicken on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and/or a pinch of chopped pecans if desired.

Enjoy With Love,


  1. Great idea to double the pecan cream sauce! Your chicken looks golden brown & delicious, so you've obviously mastered the method! Well done.

  2. Lovely looking chicken so well browned and it is good to hear that the recipe was fast and easy well done and also good to hear that you worked out that you don't like mushrooms at the end. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.