Crazy For Caprese

Sometimes I love coming home and making an extravagant dinner that can take hours and hours, that challenges me, stretches me, teaches me new techniques, introduces me to new flavors, and just all-round makes me a better at-home chef. Other times, I like coming home and getting a fresh cooked meal done and on the table - no muss, no fuss, just a good home-cooked meal and a dinner on the plates by 7pm kind of night. So naturally, that normally means chicken - I know you're probably sick of making yourself chicken, it's bland and boring and you can complain about it all day, and I would kind of understand, I get in the chicken rut sometimes too. However, what most beginning cooks don't realize is that chicken really can be a great way to try new things, start to understand how to balance spices and herbs, and be used as a great foundation for a great dinner. You just have to remember a few key things:

  1. don't go cheap get a good cage free, organic chicken it does change the flavor and it's really not that much more expensive
  2. WASH & DRY your chicken - I think a lot of people forget to do this and it's an important step to a successful chicken dinner
  3. SALT your chicken and let it sit and get to room temperature, don't make the mistake of going from fridge to pan and the salt allows for the chicken to break down and start releasing its natural juices making it tender and moist

A couple of weeks ago, I was really craving a caprese salad, now for me that would be dinner in and of itself, but with my partner in crime I have to have a real protein. So of course, I grabbed some chicken breasts and headed home to make dinner. I love throwing salt and herb de provence on chicken and calling it done - but of course when I got home and opened my spice cabinet I was out! OH THE HORROR! So, I was forced to improvise and I'm kind of glad because the result was pretty terrific. I think this will be a staple for the rest of the summer! This chicken is moist, full of flavor, and simple... you can't go wrong, honestly if you follow the steps I don't think anyone could mess it up.

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I love making this caprese salad because it's super easy, it celebrates great summer veggies, it's light but filling and it makes plenty for a dinner of two and a lunch for one the next day. Honestly, I think I like it better the next day because it really just gets better as it sits, all the flavors merry together to make a refreshing blend of tomatoes, cheese, basil, cucumbers, and balsamic.

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Step-By-Step

cut your grape tomatoes in half - this allows them to release their juices and absorb the dressing

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half the mozzarella balls

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chop up your basil

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throw it all into a big bowl

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now make your dressing

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here's my tip - use a jar to make your dressing - it's easier to emulsify the oil and balsamic if you're shaking instead of stirring

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pour the dressing over the cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, and cheese and then refrigerate while you bake the chicken breasts

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time to make the chicken - cover the room temp chicken with a nice sprinkle of salt - let that sit a couple of minutes, and start heating your olive oil in your OVEN-PROOF, throw some whole basil leaves in there and let them wilt - while all this is happening I normally do the dishes - cleaning as you go makes cooking a lot more enjoyable

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sear your chicken on both sides - make sure your pan is hot enough and keep the temp up - about medium heat or so... you want to hear it sizzle - want to make sure it sounds right? It should sound like this...

[audio mp3="http://capitalconfessions.co/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MVI_5878.mp3"][/audio]

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after it's good and seared on both side cover and cook in the oven for 15, flip the chick, uncover and cook for 7 more minutes or until the juices run clear and the inside is white

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and you're done...

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CAPRESE SALAD AND BASIL CHICKEN

 

INGREDIENTS

1 container (16 oz) grape tomatoes - yes... I used the whole container well okay maybe not the whole container, I'm normally popping a few in my mouth as I cut- if you're not the biggest tomato fan, then only use half the container - either way the recipe works

1 small container (8 oz)mozzarella balls

1 large cucumber

fresh basil about 12-14 leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil + drizzle to coat pan for cooking the chicken

2.5 tablespoons balsamic

salt - I always use ground sea salt - not a big mortons table salt kind of person

fresh ground pepper

2 chicken breasts

2 heaping teaspoons thyme

2 heaping teaspoons oregano

INSTRUCTIONS

make the salad

peel, deseed and cut the cucumber

half grape tomatoes

half mozzarella balls

chop basil

make dressing by combining 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2.5 tablespoons balsamic, and a pinch of salt and pepper

combine all ingredients in a big bowl, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes

make the chicken

preheat oven to 350

sprinkle chicken on both sides with a salt - let sit for 15 minutes

heat olive oil in oven proof pan with a couple of basil leaves

cover chicken with thyme, oregano, and chopped basil on both sides

sear chicken on both sides - about 2 minutes a side

cover and place in oven for 15 minutes

remove chicken from oven, flip the chicken and place back in oven for 5-7 minutes, uncovered

let rest for 1-2 minutes then serve with caprese salad

 

notes:

You'll also need an oven proof pan - if you don't have a pan that can go from stovetop to oven stop reading this, go immediately to TJ Maxx and GET ONE. A pan that can go from the stove to the oven is one of the most important pieces of equipment, besides a wooden spoon, that you should have in your kitchen. Seriously... go... NOW!