I’ve been studying recipes and practicing techniques for years without doing too much off-roading. It feels like I’ve been accruing bits of culinary knowledge at an agonizingly slow rate, like money in the bank does interest. I can rarely call a recipe my own because usually they are just variations more or less boldly made on someone else’s base recipe. But lately, once in a while . . .
We had another “on hand” creation Friday that made me really happy for two reasons: (1) I made it up completely based on what we had. (2) It was delicious, if I do say so myself. I bought chicken breasts at the store that morning, but was forced to admit to my dear friend when she asked on the way home that I had no idea how I was going to cook them. But I like to try and use the garden, and the basil is booming. I knew there was a tin of tomatoes somewhere under the sink, and a quarter of a bag of shredded mozzarella that had to be used by the next day. (Did you know that the English do not put preservatives in food? Thus everything goes bad the third day after you open it.) I gave Harriet enough chew toys to last her at least half an hour, and went for it:
Basil and Tomato Stuffed Chicken
a small handful fresh basil leaves
a small handful shredded mozzarella
a few tinned tomatoes (or peeled drained fresh, or sun-dried, or whatever)
boneless skinless chicken breasts
1-2 TBS. olive oil
kosher salt and fresh pepper
a few cloves pressed garlic
a small handful chopped onion
a few leftover mushrooms (optional)
a sm. splash (2 TBS.?) of dry white wine (I actually used dry sherry as we hadn’t any wine)
about 1/2 c. chicken stock (I used my homemade stock from freezer)
about 1/2 c. cream or half-and-half
1 lb./500 g hot cooked pasta
Preheat to about 400 F/200 C. Cut a pocket in each chicken breast and tuck a tinned tomato (squeeze out excess liquid), some strands of chopped basil, and a bit of mozzarella in each. Heat olive oil in pan until hot but not smoking, add chicken pieces carefully and brown on each side (2-3 min.), sprinkling each side with kosher salt and fresh pepper. Remove chicken to oven-proof dish and slide into oven. (Leave it there 10-15 minutes or while you make the sauce–until just done.)
Add garlic, onion, and mushrooms if using (I only had four) to chicken pan and sauté in the chicken juices/oil left there for 2-3 minutes (keep heat high). Pour in wine and stock and reduce (rapidly boiling and bubbling), stirring to loosen bits, etc. until reduced by at least half and thicker/almost coats a spoon. Stir in cream and reduce again until sauce is thick. Check for salt and pepper and toss sauce with pasta.
Remove chicken from oven and serve with the pasta and cream sauce.
Somebody needs to try this, people.