Maple and Walnut Chicken

6 servings

1 c. walnuts, toasted
1 2/3 c. fresh breadcrumbs made from French bread
1 ½ t. chopped fresh sage
3 T. butter, melted
5 T. pure maple syrup, divided

3 ½ c. low-salt chicken broth
4 fresh sage sprigs
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 T. olive oil
6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
½ c. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 8 equal pieces

Pancetta Mashed Potatoes (recipe follows)

Finely grind toasted walnuts in processor. Transfer nuts to medium bowl; mix in breadcrumbs and chopped sage. Drizzled melted butter and 3 T. syrup over nut mixture; toss to moisten evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Boil broth, sage sprigs, thyme sprigs and remaining 2 T. syrup in medium saucepan over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 12 minutes. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover nut mixture and keep at room temperature. Cover and chill reduced broth.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in very large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then place flat side down in skillet. Cook until chicken is golden brown on bottom only, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

Turn chicken over. Mound walnut mixture atop golden side of each chicken breast, dividing equally and pressing to adhere. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until topping is crisp and golden brown and chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Transfer chicken to platter; tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Add reduced broth to same skillet, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on bottom of skillet. Boil over high heat until broth is reduced to ¾ c., about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add chilled butter 1 piece at a time, whisking until melted before adding more. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Strain sauce through fine-meshed strainer.

Serve with Pancetta Mashed Potatoes

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