Autumn is rumored to have arrived in the northern hemisphere, but I’ve seen no sign of it yet at my Florida home. Here the temperature still hovers in the upper 80s F., as it has done for months. Shorts and tank tops are still de rigueur. And quickly cooked dishes that won’t heat up the kitchen, such as this one, are still on the menu at my house.
This recipe combines the flavors of two much loved dishes — chicken cordon bleu and caprese salad — into one package. From chicken cordon bleu, I’ve borrowed the idea of boneless chicken breasts filled with layers of ham (or prosciutto) and cheese. And to this filling I’ve added the fresh tomatoes, basil, and splash of balsamic vinegar that are hallmarks of caprese salad. The only slightly fussy thing about this dish is that it calls for the chicken breasts to be thinned by pounding, instructions for which are shown below. Pre-made chicken breast paillards, as these are called, are also available in many grocery stores and butcher shops if you prefer to skip this step.
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
4 thin slices of ham or prosciutto (I use the latter)
16 or more fresh basil leaves
3 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut across into thin slices
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch sticks
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
- Rinse each chicken breast, place it on a cutting board skin (smooth) side down, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap, and pound it evenly to a 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet, rolling pin, or the base of cast iron skillet. A brief video of this process is shown at CookingGuide. Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper.
- With each chicken breast still skin side down, layer on, in order, the ham (or prosciutto), basil leaves, sliced tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese, dividing these ingredients equally among the four breasts and leaving a one-inch margin of uncovered chicken around the edges. Brush each breast with about 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, tuck in the short ends of each breast, and roll them up jelly roll fashion. Secure the seam of each breast with a toothpick or tie it with kitchen string.
- Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan and place the pan on a medium-high heat burner. When hot, add the garlic cloves and chicken breasts, quickly browning the latter on all sides. Turn down the heat to medium-low, add one tablespoon of water, cover the pan, and continue to cook the breasts (turning them occasionally) for approximately 10-15 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear. Remove the garlic cloves and discard.
- Transfer the breasts to a serving platter and slice them as shown in the photo above.
- Stir the remaining pan drippings, which should measure about 1/4 cup. If needed, reduce the sauce by boiling on high or by adding a bit more water to reach this amount. Taste the sauce; correct the seasoning as needed by adding additional salt, pepper, and/or balsamic vinegar; and drizzle it over the chicken. Serves 4-6.