Presto-Pesto Italian Flag Chicken and Garlic & Cheese Orzo
Presto-Pesto Italian Flag Chicken
* 5-6 leaves basil
* 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves (about a handful)
* 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
* 1 block soft garlic and herb cheese, such as Boursin brand
* 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (about 2 handfuls), divided
* 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1. Pre-heat the oven to 450ºF.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, pine nuts, soft cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano Reggiano (about a handful) and some salt and pepper. Process into a smooth paste. Reserve.
3. Butterfly each of the chicken breasts and pound them out lightly in a plastic bag with a dash of water using a skillet or meat mallet. Season both sides of the chicken and divide the herb-cheese mixture between the four breasts, placing a scoop on one half of each breast. Fold the flap of chicken over to enclose the cheese mixture.
4. Transfer the chicken pockets to a baking sheet and lay three slices of tomato over each breast, overlapping them like shingles. Season with some salt and pepper, drizzle with about 2 tablespoons EVOO and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (about a handful).
5. Bake the chicken pockets until cooked through and light golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
Garlic and Cheese Orzo
* 1/2 pound orzo, regular or whole wheat
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
* 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
* 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (about a handful)
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Fill a large pot with water and place over high heat to boil the pasta. When the water reaches a bubble, season it with a pinch of salt and drop in the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to the package directions, then drain and reserve.
2. When the pasta is ready, place a large skillet over medium heat with the butter. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until aromatic and tender, about 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and parsley to the pan, season with pepper and toss to thoroughly combine.
First off, the chicken was much easier to make than I anticipated. I had never butterflied a chicken breast before, but it turned out to be really easy. Pretty much all you do is lay the breast on a cutting board, cutting the breast parallel to the cutting board from one side to the other, leaving a slight hinge on each side. What you end up having is somewhat of a pouch, which is how you are able to stuff in the filling into the chicken.
I think my favorite part of the chicken dish was the great pesto filling. I had never made my own pesto before, but I honestly never want to go back to store bought pesto after having experienced the great flavor of homemade pesto. It’s fresher, and if you don’t like the crunchiness of full pine nuts, like me, then this is a great way to get the pine nut flavor without having to crunch down on one.
The tomatoes were a really great touch. I probably would have added some diced tomatoes into the stuffing of the chicken. It made the dish a little less rich, because of how rich the pesto was, and gave it great flavor. Also, the parmigiano reggiano cheese sprinkled on top of the tomatoes was awesome. I kind of just want to bake the tomatoes and parmigiano reggiano sometime for an appetizer because I think that would be an amazing and very simple dish.
When you make this Presto-Pesto Italian Flag Chicken dish, be sure to make the Garlic and Cheese Orzo too. It is a great partner with this dish and really adds to all of the flavors and colors. I liked that the Garlic and Cheese Orzo wasn’t that creamy, since the stuffing for the chicken was pretty rich.
I liked that the parmigiano reggiano came out in the flavor of the Orzo, but wasn’t too overpowering. I would recommend having a little parmigiano reggiano left over for the table so guests can sprinkle a little of it on top of the Orzo just in case they want a little more of a strong cheese flavor. My favorite part of this dish was definitely all of the parsley that was added. It gave great flavor, and helped bring down what could have been way too much of a cheesiness to the dish.
Overall, this dish gets two thumbs up. It’s great for kids and adults when it comes to flavors, and it’s an extremely easy dish to make.
You can find this dish and other recipes at the Rachael Ray Web site.