Monday, September 26, 2011

Tomato, Garlic and Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts

After I made these golden-seared chicken breasts with their moist center of plump ripe tomatoes, melted cheese and pungent garlic sauce, I wondered if I could call this an original recipe.  But when, exactly, is a recipe an original?  This is a hard question to answer because there don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules. Interestingly, copyright laws don’t give a lot of help here. From what I have read, while most cookbooks are themselves copyrighted, the individual recipes can’t be. The theory is that recipes are in the “public domain”.  This relies on the idea that several people can, at any time, come up with the same thing—ingredients and cooking techniques being pretty well universal. What copywriting a cookbook does is to bar copying every recipe out of that cookbook, in the same order, and then trying to make money out of your purloined manuscript.  But how then do people win Recipe contests?  Aren’t they all variations on something else someone else has done?  That’s factually correct. People who win things like the Pillsbury Bake-Off generally do so by adapting a recipe, changing up its key flavors but keeping the cooking method pretty much one that’s tried and true.
This recipe is based on one I found in a Gourmet magazine from 2007.  I used their basic technique for sure. But I varied their ingredients and I have little or no problem saying this is  one of my own.  And that's a milestone.  What I have always done here is to give full credit to where I’ve found the recipe and I have tried to not only acknowledge its source but have made it easy to buy the book the recipe came from. In all 200 plus posts we are now up to, I’ve never heard anything but “Thank you!” from the authors of the recipes we’ve used here. I’ve also tried to stay true to the original because I have a personal aversion to reading comments like this:  “ I didn’t like the way this recipe sounded.  So I changed the mango to persimmon, used rice flour instead of buckwheat and cooked the dish 100 degrees hotter than called for. ” What, I ask, is the point?  But this Gourmet recipe was just a starting off point for my own and I must admit the results were pretty spectacular.
The kick-off point was using yet another boneless, skinless chicken breast to create something quick, delicious and easy.  And lets face it, boneless skinless chicken breasts are particularly quick and easy. It’s the delicious part that needs frequent help.  Here it is the first week of autumn and we still have wonderful tomatoes everywhere we look.  Since I know we are about the head into the season where I will have to confine myself to the grape or cherry varieties, I want to use every wonderful tomato there is left before the first frost strikes.  I also had a half a boule of Buffalo Mozzarella in the fridge that I wanted to use.
Finally, the Gourmet recipe used a secret ingredient that I know gives great flavor, even if it gives great pause when you see it: Anchovy Paste.  Please do me a favor and before you go “Ewwww”, try this.  You won’t taste the anchovies unless you don’t completely mix the two tablespoons of paste into the dish.  What you will taste is an incredibly flavorful sauce that works it magic on the tomatoes, the cheese and on the chicken breasts themselves.  Here is the recipe:

Recipe for Tomato, Garlic and Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts:

2 large garlic clove, minced and mashed
2 tablespoons anchovy paste
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
2 large plum tomato, cut crosswise into slices, discarding ends
8 ounces of Mozzarella di Buffalo or Whole Milk Mozzarella cut into slices.

Stir together garlic, anchovy paste, parsley, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

With a sharp knife, “butterfly” chicken breasts in half horizontally, being careful not to cut them all the way through. Open breasts and lay them flat on a cutting board.

Pat chicken dry, then spread with parsley mixture. Lay the sliced tomatoes on top of the parsley mixture.  Lay the pieces of Mozzarella on top of the tomatoes.  Season with freshly ground pepper.

Season  the outside of the chicken breasts with outside of pockets with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (each), then brush with 1/2 tablespoon oil.  If you’d like, use metal skewers to hold the chicken halves together.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken and brown 4 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet, then cook until chicken is just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes more. Serve with pan juices.  Serves 4.