Serves 4 to 6
For the chicken
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cups buttermilk
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
For the sweet potatoes and broccoli
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks ¼-inch wide and 3-inches long
1 small bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into florets
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
To make the chicken
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a rack over the foil. Set aside.
To make the brine, combine the salt, sugar, paprika, and garlic in a large nonreactive container. Add the buttermilk and stir until salt is completely dissolved. Immerse the chicken breasts in the brine and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Do not brine any longer or refrigerate, or the chicken will be too salty.)
Meanwhile, combine the panko and pecans in a shallow dish. Add the oil and toss well to coat and combine. In a second shallow dish, combine the eggs, mustard, and thyme. Season both mixtures with pepper.
Working 1 piece at a time, remove the chicken from the brine and shake off any excess liquid. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, coating both sides. Place the breasts in the breadcrumb mixture, sprinkle with crumbs to cover, and press so the coating adheres; turn the chicken over and repeat the process. Gently shake off any excess crumbs. Place the coated breasts on the rack set on the baking sheet.
To make the sweet potatoes and broccoli
Toss the broccoli florets with the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Spread them out and then roast, without stirring, until the edges are crispy and the stems are crisp tender, the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear, the sweet potatoes are tender, and the broccoli is crisp, about 25 minutes.
James Beard Foundation Award-winner Virginia Willis has made cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. She is the author of Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. She’s been seen on Food Network, CBS This Morning, and Fox and Friends and featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Eater, and Food52. She has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. Her fans love her foolproof recipes and down-to-earth attitude. Learn more at www.virginiawillis.com.
Reprinted with permission from Virginia Willis, copyright (c) 2019. Photography by Virginia Willis.