CAPRESE CHICKEN

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Simple grilledCaprese Chicken is a recipe I look forward to as soon as tomatoes come into season. The classic caprese combination of fresh mozzarella, ripe juicy tomatoes and peppery fresh basil is irresistible over tender grilled chicken breasts, especially after being drizzled with a splash of aged balsamic. There aren’t any complicated techniques or ingredients in this quick and easy dinner recipe – just simple, real food ingredients that truly shine.  Quick, easy, seasonal dinners don’t get much better than Caprese Chicken. We’re talking about charred juicy chicken topped with briny fresh mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, and peppery basil, finished with a drizzle of sweet aged balsamic. Shut the front door! The head to the backyard, fire up the grill, and get ready for tastytown, because the train is rolling in, and you want to be on it. In less than 30 minutes, you can be slicing into this little piece of Italian heaven. And I do mean heaven, because these classic flavors are a summertime delight.  WHAT DOES CAPRESE MEAN? Caprese refers to a classic Italian salad made with fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and basil. At it’s most authentic, a caprese salad is seasoned with salt and pepper and dressed with good quality olive oil. Balsamic vinegar or pesto are common variations. It’s often stacked, sometimes tossed, and if you want to get fancy, the individual pieces can be skewered onto sticks for an appetizer. But caprese needn’t be limited to salads. These classic flavors are a no-fail combination, so you can and should extend them into main courses – toss them with pasta and sausage for a fresh and hearty dinner, layer them in a sandwich, or as we’re doing here, use them to dress grilled chicken. INGREDIENTS FOR CAPRESE CHICKEN The list of fresh ingredients in this recipe is short, so use the best quality you can find and afford: Fresh tomato and mozzarella slices on a cutting board next to a bunch of fresh basil. Fresh mozzarella is a must. The flavor is sweet, delicate and slightly briny. If you can find buffalo mozzarella, it’s an excellent upgrade with its richer, creamier flavor. Fresh tomatoes are also a must, and preferably locally sourced – head to thy farmer’s market! The varietal doesn’t matter as long as they’re ripe, sweet, and juicy. Keeping in line with fresh-is-best, you have to use fresh basil here – it’s bursting with flavor and completes the classic trio. I like to dress my caprese chicken with a splash of traditional (or aged) balsamic vinegar. This is not the condiment you’re accustomed to cooking with or tossing into a salad dressing. It’s a very specific vinegar that has a viscous texture and sweet flavor. It’s expensive AF, but a little (like a teaspoon per serving) goes a long way and it’s worth seeking out. If aged balsamic is out of your budget, feel free to use balsamic glaze, which is readily available at most grocery stores and a reasonable approximation if you’re on a budget. For everything you ever wanted to know about balsamic vinegar, this guide from Serious Eats is utterly comprehensive. HOW TO MAKE CAPRESE CHICKEN STEP-BY-STEP You won’t believe how easily and quickly this simple Caprese Chicken comes together. I’ve cooked this on my grill and grill pan with equally good results (although I’m always partial to using our kettle grill in the summer!). This chicken is very impressive for a dinner party or gathering, and doubles easily – see the recipe notes for my doubling hack if you’re limited to using just a grill pan.

Two images showing how to pound out a chicken breast to even thickness using parchment paper and a rolling pin. Prepare the boneless skinless chicken breasts for quick, even grilling by pounding them to an even thickness. There are many ways to achieve this, but using parchment paper and a rolling pin is my go-to method, and it doesn’t require any fancy tools. Place the chicken breast onto a large sheet of parchment paper, then fold the paper over the chicken. Using a rolling pin, gently pound the top 3/4 of the chicken (the thicker part) until it’s an even thickness with the lower fourth. A chicken breast pounded to even thickness on a piece of parchment paper. The resulting chicken will be less than an inch thick. I used the same piece of parchment for all 4 chicken breasts and it held up well. A small bowl with herb blend for making caprese chicken, and raw chicken breasts sprinkled with the herb blend. In a small bowl, combine the italian seasoning, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.

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