Still feeling the stress of the season? [Or just feeling any stress at all?][PS- I have no idea who this is…but if it is you, welcome to the blog. Until then, I shall call you Stacy. Stress-full Stacy. Not stressful as in, you cause stress, but Stress-FULL, as in full of it.]
I have the solution! It’s time to BEAT…SOME…CHICKEN!
This is not the first time I’ve showed some boneless, skinless chicken who’s boss…but this time the photo shoot was more fun.
Perhaps I should back up just a little.
Now, my dad and stepmom are no slackers in the culinary world. As I’ve mentioned many times before, they are singlehandedly (four-handedly?) keeping the Penzey’s Spices company in business, and they do things like make a turkey dinner on a Tuesday for no apparent reason (I mean, unless you count the Texan daughter’s homecoming as a reason)…
…or whip of a Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe for Cod with Parsley Pesto Oysters in Butter-Wine Sauce …
But when we were at lunch the other day, discussing dinner plans, and Faye (my stepmom) realized she would be at her Body Pump class while my dad was still at work and there would be no one to start dinner, all eyes fell on me. [Maybe because I literally raised my hand and said, “Oh! Oh! I’ll do it!”…] The recipe had already been chosen, I just needed to assemble. No big deal. Not a problem.This Baked Pesto Chicken from the South Beach Diet cookbook is one that Faye has relied on for a quick weeknight meal for ages…easy, healthy, and tasty (or so she said…I’d never actually tried it before). She showed me the recipe and I, of course, immediately began expounding on the original: “Have you thought about adding tomatoes?”
Faye replied with her usual ‘she is her father’s daughter and I should just go with it because they never can leave a recipe well enough alone’ smile and, “No, but I’m sure that would be good.”
—“Hey, Sister, please come take pictures of me while I beat this chicken.”
—“Umm…do I have to?”
—[Sigh] “Fine.”To make South Beach‘s Baked Pesto Chicken–Sarah Style–you’ll need 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Put them into plastic bags and get your meat mallet ready. [If you are unlucky, as I am in The Smart Kitchen, to have an actual meat pounder thingy, you can always use a large pan. If you are lucky to have a dad and stepmom with an incredibly well-equipped kitchen…you can play with the “official tools” of a chicken pounder.]Take out any stress you might be feeling, whether it is the craziness of winter, impending snowstorms, work troubles, or the fact that Top Chef wasn’t new last night and you just don’t understand why…
Once the chicken is pounded to about 1/2-inch thickness (and you are sad that there is no more to pound because being a chicken bully is apparently REALLY fun), you get to begin the pesto-playing-puzzle-piecing assembly of the dish…starting with a layer of store-bought pesto in the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish.You’ll use about 1/4 of a cup to cover the whole bottom.
It will seem like it’s not enough, but that oil helps it smoooooooth out quite nicely.
Then, after the pesto-playing comes the puzzle-piecing (aka trying to fit all of the chicken and the tenders that have undoubtedly broken off in your chicken-beating frenzy into an even layer in the pan).Spread another 1/4 cup of pesto over the top of the chicken. (Again, you’ll think it’s not going to be enough, but like loaves and fishes, it magically seems to multiply before your eyes!)Top the chicken with about 1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil preferably…otherwise it will be a little like a Exxon-Valdez incident in your pan).Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. While it’s cooking, grate about 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella……and get your Parmesan cheese ready!Take the chicken out of the oven and cover with cheese.Return to the oven and cook for another 5 or so minutes…until the cheese is melty and delicious!
Serve with a deliciously simple green salad (made from whatever ingredients you can scavenge from your* fridge).
Plus, I now have a photo for my match.com profile.No? Too scary?
adapted from South Beach’s Baked Pesto Chicken
1. Flatten chicken to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or heavy frying pan.
2. Spread 1/4 cup pesto in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.
3. Place chicken in even layer, and cover with remaining 1/4 cup pesto.
4. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes over chicken.
5. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
6. Uncover and sprinkle cheese over chicken.
7. Bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and/or crispy [depending on how you like it :)].