Crispy Stuffed Chicken Caprese with Fresh Tomato Basil Relish
4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
Salt and cracked black pepper
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. lemon zest
4 ripe pearl tomatoes (or 8 cherry tomatoes), sliced ¼” or thinner
1 T. balsamic vinegar
16 slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼ ” or thinner (from an 8 oz ball or log)
16 large, fresh basil leaves
½ c. flour
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
½ t. Italian seasoning
Fresh Tomato-Basil Relish (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 400°, and line a baking sheet with foil.
Prepare the chicken breasts by butterflying each breast, being careful not to cut all the way through (you want to end up with a thinner, flatter chicken breast); place each butterflied chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound the chicken out with a mallet to about ¼” thickness; place the chicken breasts into a bowl, and add a drizzle of olive oil, the garlic, a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, the lemon juice and zest, and marinate the chicken for about 15-20 minutes.
Next, place the thinly sliced pearl tomatoes into a small dish, and add to them the balsamic vinegar and a pinch or two of salt and pepper, and allow them to marinate while the chicken marinates.
To prepare the chicken, place one marinaded chicken breast in front of you, vertically; giving yourself about a ½” border at the bottom, begin by adding 2 of the fresh basil leaves, then 2 slices of the fresh mozzarella cheese, next 4 slices of the marinated tomato, then another 2 basil leaves and finally 2 more slices of mozzarella onto the chicken; starting at the bottom, fold the chicken over the ingredients, gently rolling upward until wrapped; place 2-3 toothpicks through the seam at angles to secure the filling and to keep the chicken held together, and place it onto a clean plate to hold; repeat the process with all four chicken breasts.
To bread the chicken, add the flour into a medium-size bowl; add the eggs into a another medium-size bowl, and whisk well; add the panko breadcrumbs, the grated parmesan, the Italian seasoning and a pinch of cracked black pepper into another medium-size bowl, and toss to combine; gently dredge each chicken breast in the flour, then in the eggs and finally in the panko-parmesan mixture, and set aside on the plate while you heat your oil.
To fry, add enough olive oil to a large heavy-bottom pan or skillet for a shallow fry (roughly 1 cup), and place over medium-high heat; once the oil is hot, add in 2 of the rolled and breaded chicken breasts seam-side down, and cook until golden-brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side (about 8 minutes total); remove from oil and place onto a paper towel-lined plate, and repeat the process with the remaining two breasts; to finish the chicken, add the fried breasts to the foil-lined baking sheet, and place into the oven for about 4-5 minutes, until completely cooked through and the cheese is melted and gooey; to serve, remove toothpicks, and serve on a bed of the Fresh Tomato-Basil Relish.
Fresh Tomato-Basil Relish:
8 ripe pearl (or Campari) tomatoes, diced very finely
2 cloves of garlic, pressed through garlic press
¼ c. julienned fresh basil leaves
Olive oil, drizzle or two
Pinch or two salt
Pinch or two freshly cracked black pepper
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Add all ingredients in a small bowl, and gently fold together to combine; cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge until ready to use with chicken. (Prepare shortly before use)