Cooking with the Esse Ironheart: Almond-Crusted Chicken

The other evening marked our first official evening of heating and cooking with the Ironheart this season. A dip into chilly temperatures outside has translated into a gradual cooling down of our ICF house to 19.5 degrees Celsius, which is still rather comfortable. But, seeing the opportunity to get the beloved Ironheart going, my husband made the case that it could be even cooler by morning if we didn’t put a fire on. So, I agreed, naturally.

Reggie could not have been happier about this turn of events.

Black lab in front of Ironheart woodstove

Faced with cooking something for supper after a long day in the city, I cast around for a simple treatment for chicken that I could just throw into the Ironheart’s oven once it hit cooking temperature. Enter Almond-Crusted Chicken Wings from Food & Wine, which I modified only slightly by switching to chicken breasts (what I had on hand) cut into large pieces. After a summer and fall overstuffed with more ‘classic’ Mediterranean flavours (which I love, no complaints here), I’ve been craving different flavours, but I also found myself with limited ingredients with which to achieve that shift. The spice paste in this recipe seemed like a nice, if gentle shift into slightly spicier territory.

Most if not all of the ingredients for the spice paste are likely to be found in your store cupboard, including olive oil, sherry, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper. The garlic in my cupboard was grown in our garden this past winter and spring, which I’m really thrilled about. Looking forward to planting next year’s crop in just a couple of weeks.

Ingredients for easy almond encrusted chicken

Spice paste ingredients in bowl

Spice paste for chicken pieces in a bowl

Once the paste was ready, it was time to tip the chicken pieces into the bowl, coat them thoroughly, and then add the chopped almonds. Fortunately, I tend to have a variety of nuts on hand in the freezer.

Combining chicken pieces and almonds with spice paste

And mixing it altogether in the original bowl for making the spice paste made clean up extremely simple. The prepared chicken pieces went into the woodstove for about 25 minutes and were enjoyed with rice and the ‘superfast lemon aioli’ suggested with the original recipe. Nary a vegetable in sight. This was a late night meal just for the teenager, my husband and myself, after another in a string of very heavy work days. Enjoyed in front of an episode of season five of ‘Breaking Bad’ on DVD (do NOT tell us how it ends!).

Next time, a bit more care with the companion dishes would be great, but for a quick meal, it was very tasty. The treatment is a good one for a quick-cooking meal in the Ironheart, which would normally allow enough time to follow it with baking something on its heels.

Almond encrusted chicken from Food & Wine

Almond-Crusted Chicken from Food & Wine


1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds chicken wings
3/4 cup very coarsely chopped natural almonds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Zest and juice from 1 lemon


Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine the 1/3 cup of olive oil with the paprika, cumin, cayenne and garlic. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Add the wings and almonds and toss. Spread the wings and almonds on a large baking sheet in a single layer and roast for about 25 minutes, until cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, combine the mayonnaise with the lemon zest and juice. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and process until smooth; season the aioli with salt and pepper.
Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken wings, turning once until they are lightly crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the wings and almonds to a platter and serve with the lemon aioli.

8 thoughts on “Cooking with the Esse Ironheart: Almond-Crusted Chicken

  1. Sounds very tasty. Good for you for cooking at all after a hard day of work in the city. That is the most tempting time to slide away from eating real food, isn’t it?

    1. It was surprisingly nice for such a simple dish and is the kind of thing I could see building on. Thanks for the kudos; every homemade meal does feel like a small victory in this busy world we all live in, doesn’t it.

  2. I just love your Ironheart! This sounds and looks magnificent df. It’s also comforting to know there is another person in the world who freezes her nuts (my husband thinks I am, well, nuts for doing that). Ha, pets just love a direct heat source don’t they. Reggie looks pretty contentedly sprawled out. My husband’s family cat often slept directly on a heating vent, promptly overheated and passed out! He would need to be revived by being carried into the freezing cold garden.
    PS. Breaking Bad! OMG it’s so, so good.

    1. Thanks Sas. That is so funny that we share nut freezing – I’m still giggling over that! That cat story is unsurpassable, though – what a great story. I’m grateful Reggie doesn’t do that, because we couldn’t shift him if he passed out! I’m working on my GF version of your dried fruit muffins – I’ll stop by again to let you know how I do.

  3. If I had an Ironheart, my Max would never leave its side. As it is, he camps out in front of the oven whenever I bake or roast something. These wings are so much better than the standard method of preparation. As much as I enjoy fried foods, wings don’t have to be fried to be good. Here’s the proof. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. Max sounds like a smart one and a great companion in the kitchen. I really like your point. I find it’s easy to slip into bad eating habits if we don’t rethink some of these classics, and you’re quite right, this is every bit as good. Thank you John!

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