Thursday, August 7, 2014

Caprese Chicken with Chipotle-lime Corn on the Cob

True Experimentation with Happy Results  

This morning before bringing my daughter to preschool, she asked me if we could invite our good friends Tim and Claire over for dinner. So while wandering around the Farmer's Market at Monument Square, I gave Claire a ring to see if they were available. Fortunately, they were! Now where to begin, where would my inspiration lie today? Lots of colorful veggies at the market. I was in the mood for a little meat protein. There was a lot of fresh basil in my garden at home and I had been pondering the idea of pesto the last couple of days. However, Tim wasn't able to eat pesto with nuts, so I was now inspired to create a nut-free pesto. Okay, pesto, chicken…I knew that I wanted to get some fresh corn, since like every season in Maine, with the exception of winter, that of corn on the cob is short-lived. Juicy, sun-ripened tomatoes were also on the docket, as the ones  growing in my garden are still all as green as emeralds. With these ideas floating around in my head, I still couldn't quite figure out what to make. How was I going to fit each of these ingredients together in a way that would go?

I began with the pesto. Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic. Would these give me the consistency that I wanted and the right flavor? I whirred the olive oil, basil and pressed garlic up together, using the ice-crush button on my blender. Then added in the cheese, and it was just too green. I added a little more olive oil and some lemon juice. No, I thought to myself, this just doesn't taste right. Oh no, this is going to be a disaster. After an hour and a half of tutoring, 2 cups of coffee and no lunch, I was feeling like I had bitten off more than I could chew for this humid afternoon. The pesto was a wonderful color, so I set it aside, thinking I should add this, that or the other thing to it to get it the right flavor, texture, not so garlicky. No, I said to myself, just leave it. Kind of like art, often when you add too much, it becomes ruined. 


After the pesto, I was on to the Chipotle-lime butter for the corn on the cob. Again, I felt that I just
couldn't get the flavors right, and who serves chipotle-lime flavors with pesto! Italian and Latin cuisine…ugh I though, as I sent Claire a stressed out text message, forewarning her of the possible dinner disaster. I now set aside, the chipotle butter and washed up the dishes before running out to pick up Zsuly. When we got home, it dawned on me, exactly how I was going to pull this off. Scratch the cucumber tomato salad, or the Caprese salad. Caprese chicken…its going to be perfect I thought. The colors, the textures, the clean, fresh flavors. 

It turned out, thankfully to be a success and both my dinner guests and my daughter, as well as myself, were all satisfied with the results. With lots of gratitude and mmm's everyone ended the evening with a happy belly. 

This recipe will serve 4 hungry adults and at least one child. 
 The three parts of the recipe are…

Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced

Step 1: 

Grate the parmesan cheese until you have about 3/4 cups (tightly packed). 

Wash and pat the basil dry. 

Step 2:

In a blender (if you use a food processor, you will not need to pre-grate the cheese) combine the olive oil, and half the basil. Also add in the garlic (either mince with a knife before adding to blender or use a garlic press). 

Use the Ice-crush button of the blender to pulse the basil leaves until chopped. Then add the remainder of the basil. When all basil is chopped add in the cheese, pepper, and salt. Again use the ice-chop button to pulse until desired consistency is reached (pretty thin). Add in the juice of 1 lemon and mix on high. The lemon will take away some of the bitterness or greeny flavor of the basil. 

Remove from blender and set aside. 



Chipotle-lime Butter

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp. fresh jalapeño pepper, chopped fine with no seeds
  • 1 heaping tsp. chipotle chili
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • pinch of chili powder
  • pinch of paprika
In a small bowl, combine the butter, jalapeño, cilantro, chipotle, and mix well. Add in juice of the lime, and a tiny bit (1/4 tsp.) of lime zest. Mix well. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Keep in mind the chili and the paprika are more for color than flavor. Cover and refrigerate. 

Putting it all together

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds of skinless boneless organic free-range chicken breast 
  • 6 ears of corn, husked
  • 3 large tomatoes, I used orange and red
  • a couple sprigs of rosemary
  • salt
  • 8 oz of fresh mozzarella cheese

Step 1: Cooking the corn

Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water. Place corn in the pot and put over a high flame. When the water begins to boil, keep over high flame for 12 minutes. Then turn off heat and drain water. 

Step 2: Tomatoes and Mozzarella   

While corn is cooking, slice tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Lay on plate, alternating colors. Set aside. Slice mozzarella into 1/8 inch slices and set aside. 

Step 3: Cooking the chicken 

Slice each chicken breast in half lengthwise, to make a thinner cut. Heat about a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or frying pan. Add in rosemary sprigs and as many chicken breasts as will fit, leaving space to flip. As the edges of the chicken begin to whiten, they will also be browning. Sprinkle with salt. Flip breasts every 2 minutes or so. Total cooking time for the chicken breasts will be about 5-7 minutes. Pan cook until lightly brown on each side, and cooked through. Turn off heat, and put a slice of the fresh mozzarella on each breast. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. This will melt the cheese and lock in the juices for assure chicken is tender and not dry. 

Step 4: Serving the meal

Take 4-5 slices of the tomatoes and lie on plate, fanned out. Remove chicken breast from pan, lying one breast per plate over tomatoes. Mix pesto well, then drizzle over the chicken breast and tomatoes. Remove corn from pot and place on plate. Slather with the Chipotle-lime butter. 

Serve with a lovely, fresh green salad and either a dry, crisp white wine or full-bodied red. Enjoy!