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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Chicken Dijon a quick meal pleaser

Thursday, June 10, 1999

The heat was on, literally and figuratively. We rushed home, sweaty and sunburned, from picking strawberries Saturday afternoon, and we had a concert to go to that night. Not much time to cook, but we gave it a whirl anyway.

Chicken Dijon turned out to be just the thing.

This is the second Countdown to Dinner recipe we've featured from Gary Gates of Shadyside, a 37-year-old doctoral student at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University.

"I just made it up on the spot," he said. "It was one of those things where I find what's in the refrigerator and put some things together."

Hoping to finish his schooling in the next year to year and a half, Gates would like to work in policy research in the field of labor economics, either in a government position or for a think tank.

But no matter what he ends up doing, one thing's for sure: He'll always be cooking. After all, it runs in the family.

"My family is Slovak. I grew up in one of those houses where, as soon as someone enters the house, you're to feed them. There was always something cooking."

We liked the plain version of his recipe but look forward to trying it with herbs and garlic. And we'd like to fiddle around with the ingredient proportions a bit -- a little more yogurt and mustard (the amount of mustard really depends on how much you like the Dijon flavor), a little less mayo.

One cleanup tip -- instead of using a baking dish, we baked the chicken on a foil-covered cookie sheet. That helped a lot because even though we managed to cook and eat before rushing out again on Saturday night, we had to save the dishes for later.

Oh well. Can't have everything. -- Tested by Rebecca Sodergren

Chicken Dijon

4 boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup mayonnaise (low-fat is fine)
1/4 cup nonfat yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (seasoned OK)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard and thyme along with salt and pepper to taste. Generously brush that mixture onto chicken breasts and coat with the bread crumbs.

Bake in a greased, shallow baking dish for 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness of chicken breasts.

Note: Variations on this dish include any combination of fresh herbs you have on hand. Gates has used basil, sage and/or marjoram. Another variation he suggests is adding a clove or two of fresh chopped garlic.

Do you have an entrée, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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