Suzi's Blog

Pepper and Herbed Butter

Is it possible to figure out how many potatoes you have eaten in your life? At my age, and with my growing-up-in-the-50s background, my PPC — Personal Potato Count — is very, very high. Baked potatoes, French fries, hash browns, potato salad, … That veggie has been a major part of intake.

And my favorite? Well, for ease of use, I love them baked. However, I could use a baked boost. Just baked with butter is good — although I have been accused of adding too much salt and pepper. But that standard pairing day-in-day-out can get a tad boring. Sour cream and chives? I’ve been there. Worchester and other steak sauces? Spicy and interesting, but not every day. And there is salt there, too.

Yes, it was suggested that I lower my salt intake. And, yes, my lovely wife is monitoring my intake grain by grain.

Back to that butter. That unsalted butter by the way. This summer Suzen is offering her Cooking by the Book clients steak with an herbed butter. I expanded that idea this weekend to create this flavored butter that was just outstanding on my baked potato. The butter flavor is there, of course, but now augmented with the tasty boost of peppers, basil and cilantro. The best part of this? There is enough flavor here that you do NOT want to grab for the salt shaker.

Pepper and Herbed Butter

Yield: 12 tablespoons


  • 1 stick of butter [4 ounces or 8 tablespoons]
  • ⅓ cup of canned red pepper, finely diced
  • 5 basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped


Take the stick of butter from the refrigerator and finely slice it on a cutting board. Place the slices in a bowl and using a wooded spoon work the butter until it begins to soften. You’ll need at least 2 minutes here.

Add the remaining ingredients and continuing working the butter. At some point you may want to use your hands, not a spoon, to gently fold the peppers and herbs into the butter. I had a lot of pepper to incorporate; dicing the peppers finely makes the incorporation stage easier.

Form the butter into a roll, seal in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour before use.


Source: Brian O’Rourke


Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and Basil

How can you make chicken taste better than chicken? Enfold it with flavor. Inundate it with cool contrasts. In the summer, it’s easier to do than you might think.

Take chicken breasts, marinate them in garlic and mustard, then coat with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, cook in butter, and finish by topping with chopped summer tomatoes and basil. Summer is the ideal season to assemble all these ingredients, spend some time in the kitchen walking through each step, and relish in your accomplishments.

This dish has been the most requested entry at Cooking by the Book this summer. People are instinctively drawn to the idea of chicken, cheese, and fresh garden vegetables. This dish becomes a substantial entry. Pair it with freshly roasted corn, and you can enjoy the peak of summer.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and Basil

Servings: 4


For Chicken and Marinade

  • 6 6-ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or several dashes of Tabasco


For the Coating

  • 1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or panko
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For Tomato Cruda

  • 4 plum Roma tomatoes or small, vine ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 to 20 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 450°F.

For the chicken: Rinse the breasts and pat them dry. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard, wine, garlic, and pepper and add the chicken. The chicken can be coated immediately or held in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

For the coating: In a large, shallow dish, mix the cheese, breadcrumbs, and pepper. Drizzle the melted butter over the crumb mixture and toss until well combined.

To coat and cook the chicken: Butter a baking sheet or rack. Take a breast from the marinade with one hand (this is now your “wet” hand.) Don’t wipe off the marinade. Lay the chicken on the crumbs. Scoop and pat the crumbs over the breast using your other hand (your “dry” hand), patting until both sides are thoroughly coated. Put the breast on a buttered baking sheet or rack and repeat with the remaining breasts. Roast the chicken until it’s crisp, browned, and cooked through 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make tomato cruda: In a small bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, garlic, and salt. Add the basic chiffonade. Set aside while the chicken is baking for the cruda flavors to come together.

Remove chicken from the oven and serve with the tomato and basil sauce.

Source: Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine and Elizabeth Terry