I can't believe I'm already posting yet another chicken recipe. What is happening to me? My past self would be rolling her eyes and laughing in disbelief at my increased chicken consumption. She'd also be wondering what the hell has gotten into me that I feel it appropriate to share so many poultry recipes with my awesome readers. Well, I would apologize if I thought it necessary. But something tells me that you'll be thanking me for this chicken creation.
For the bird that I so often turned my nose at has been making some rather memorable appearances on my dinner table recently. And I'm not even going to pretend that I'm not excited to share last night's winner, winner chicken dinner with you today. It was perhaps, the very best chicken dish I have ever prepared. I want to put emphasis on the word, "ever" because friends, I don't even think my piccata, marsala, or cacciatore would hold a candle to the concoction I whipped up last night.
My inspiration for the chicken dish I deem heavenly? The Santa Monica Farmer's Market, which Chris and I visited for the first time this past Sunday. I promise, there will be a post in the near future on this delightful food worshiper's paradise. In addition to the endless crates of strawberries, mounds of oranges, and array of avocados, there were also several farms showing off their heirloom tomatoes. Oh, what beauties they were, with all their unique sizes, shapes, and colors. Needless to say, I was taken by their good looks and was dead set on buying a few.
I knew I wanted to keep the tomatoes raw, so that I could really enjoy their fresh, vibrant, and juicy ways. And while a simple caprese salad would've surely done the trick for yours truly, I wanted to make a meal that would satisfy my carnivorous fiancé. too. So with just a bit of brainstorming, I decided to stuff some chicken with perfectly salty, chewy salami and a mild, creamy ricotta. And for the heirlooms? Well, they'd simply get thrown on top of it all, as the shining star of the dish. Tossed with some fresh basil, sea salt, cracked pepper, minced garlic, and olive oil, they contrasted just gorgeously with the salami and ricotta stuffed bird.
Oh, and to really turn on my tastebuds (as if there wasn't enough texture and taste diversity already) I adorned the whole thing with some balsamic and parmesan dressed arugula.
Ricotta and Salami Stuffed Chicken with an Heirloom Tomato and Basil Salad
For the chicken:
2 large (about 1 lb.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 lb. Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/2 cup ricotta (I used part-skim)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons EVOO
For the heirloom tomato topping:
1 cup chopped heirloom tomatoes of your choice (I used 3 varieties)
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade cut
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon EVOO
salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (optional)
1) Butterfly chicken by taking a large, sharp knife down the middle of each chicken breast, length-wise. Be careful not to cut the chicken breast all the way through. Then, place saran wrap on top of the butterflied chicken breasts (so that the chicken juices don't splatter) and with a meat tenderizer, pound out the chicken (using the smooth side of tenderizer) until it's thin. Salt and pepper the chicken. Place in a large zip-lock bag with 1/4 cup balsamic and let marinate for 20-30 minutes.
2) While chicken is marinating, make the heirloom tomato salad topping by combining the chopped tomatoes with chiffonade cut basil, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside.
3) Remove marinated chicken from zip-lock bag. Scoop 1/4 cup ricotta onto each piece of chicken and spread evenly all over chicken. Sprinkle ricotta with a small pinch of salt. Then, add the salami, as much or little as you like. Just remember that you'll need to "roll up" the chicken.
4) Tightly roll up the chicken from the bottom of the "butterfly." In other words, roll the chicken the opposite way from which it was butterflied. Then, with butchers twine, tie up the stuffed chicken. There is a correct way to tie with butcher's twine, but as long as the chicken is all tied up and nothing is spilling out, you should be good.
5) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Then, in a medium to large non-stick pan, bring 2 tablespoons EVOO to medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides and then transfer to an oven-safe casserole dish or pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
6) Remove from oven. With kitchen shears, cut twine from the chicken. Plate and top with heirloom tomato salad. Feel free to sprinkle freshly grated parmesan on top too.
7) Serve with veggie of your choice. I kept things light and crisp and paired the chicken with arugula which I tossed with balsamic, freshly cracked black pepper, and some finely grated parmesan.
***Makes 2 large dinner-sized portions.