unraveling a recipe

food detective

Categories: Poultry, Veggies and Sides, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Posted on July 23, 2022 by Sandy Bergsten

This past month has been a doozie in the news department. Thank goodness for NYT’s “Cooking”. It’s been a welcome refuge from the myriad of blasts. One monumental news day I stumbled across a recipe for caprese chicken by Susan Spungen. It was the exact diversion I was seeking. Midwest chicken, garden tomatoes, fresh basil. And happily there was a crinkle. While all the components were heavenly, the recipe itself did not make sense. I dove deep into the cooking notes left by other readers, they often provide valuable insight and worthy alternatives. This recipe had 267 cooking notes. Plenty to keep me from the day’s court rulings and government hearings.

Knowing I could not solve the world’s problems, I decided to distract myself by diving deep. When I went to a butcher and asked for two chicken breast halves cut in half crosswise, not quite through, to form a pocket (all done over a counter with a mask on) I received two whole chicken breasts broken into cutlets. Not quite what I meant to order. But because I was less than eloquent in my request, I thanked him and took my large package of chicken home. Once there I wondered what to do with it. Then a light bulb went off and I decided to sous vide the chicken until almost cooked, then chill it in an ice bath, refrigerate two half breasts for that night’s dinner, and freeze the rest. 

I took my sous vided breasts and followed the recipe when it came to stuffing with mozzarella, basil and thick tomato slices, sauteing them, then finishing them in the oven. Here’s the major flaw of the recipe. Great components but baking tomatoes inside a pocketed chicken breast just doesn’t work. The tomatoes slide out and get watery. Everything didn’t melt like the chicken-esque calzone I was envisioning. It tasted good, but I knew it could be much better.

The next day once again overwhelmed with the headlines I dove back into this chicken recipe. I thought this would be perfect summer fare for a little dinner party. By sous viding the chicken and chilling it ahead of time I could make a main that literally would come together in minutes. 

And the riddle of the tomatoes was solved by serving roasted cherry tomatoes and tossed with fresh basil on the side.

And what could be more simple than a little rice pilaf.

Caprese chicken is perfect for two and can easily be doubled or tripled for a party. Cut two chicken breast halves in half crosswise to create two thin cutlets. This is a great task to ask of your butcher. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel.  Season all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Put each breast back together. Fill a large pot with water and set the Anova Precision Cooker to 140 degrees.

Place the breasts in a single layer in a sous vide bag and vacuum seal. 

Place in the heated bath and set the timer for one hour.

When done, chill the sealed cooked chicken in an ice bath for 15 minutes. Refrigerate for up to two days. If you do not have a sous vide or would rather not use it, you can sauté the cutlets as outlined below for about six minutes per side or until golden and just cooked through.

To prep ahead, cut four ounces of mozzarella into quarter inch slices.

Separate the basil leaves earlier in the day. Cover both and refrigerate.

Right before dinner preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed quarter baking sheet with foil and top with a piece of parchment paper. Remove the chicken breasts from the bag, reserve the liquid, separate the breasts, and set aside.

Heat one teaspoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Two cloves of thinly sliced garlic and carefully sauté until just golden, about two to three minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. 

Raise the heat to medium-high. Sauté the chicken on all sides until golden and heated through, lower the heat if the chicken browns too quickly. Transfer the bottom slice of each breast to the prepared baking sheet. Top with two slices of mozzarella and 4-5 basil leaves. Place the top slice of each breast over the cheese and mozzarella. Finish the chicken in the oven until heated through and the cheese begins to melt, about 10 minutes.

While the chicken is baking add the juice from the bag to the pan juices in the skillet. Over medium-high heat reduce for a minute or two. Whisk in one tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on plates, spoon the pan juices over the top. Garnish each breast with a drizzle of pesto, the reserved sauteed garlic and a couple basil leaves. 

What a delicious distraction.

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