When my family saw what I was making for dinner they were a bit concerned about how it would turn out. The end result? They were impressed at how juicy the chicken breasts were, and how much flavour they had!
This was really only about using up the zucchini...but it was easier to do than it looks, and well worth the effort.
Start off by slicing the zucchini, lengthwise, into really thin pieces. You will need at least 2 pieces per chicken breast. Try and avoid using the middle of the zucchini, where the seeds are, as this can be bitter. I saved the first few narrow pieces for another meal (tonight's risotto) when I will dice them and cook them.
I used a plastic 'mandoline' that I had bought as a stocking stuffer for my daughter one year. It cost $10 and was worth the investment!
If you don't have one, use the box grater...the one side usually has a wide blade. This worked well too, I cut some of my zucchini on here to try it out.
Lay the zucchini slices out and season one side lightly with salt and pepper.
Make a wet rub for the chicken by combining:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 - 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Rub this all over the chicken breasts, making sure they are coated all over.
Heat the oven to 400F. Get some toothpicks ready to go, and it's time to wrap the chicken...
Wrap 2 slices of zucchini around each chicken breast, securing them with the toothpicks on the back (I always consider the skin side the front of the chicken).
Place the unseasoned side of the zucchini against the chicken.
Heat a heavy bottomed pan on high heat, adding some olive oil.
When the oil is almost at smoking point place the chicken breasts skin side down into the pan and allow them to cook for about 3 - 5 minutes. Do not move them!
When the chicken and zucchini are golden, as in the picture above, gently lift and turn the chicken breasts. Place the pan into the oven and bake until the chicken is completely cooked through.
Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes, before plating and serving.
- The high water content in the zucchini works to keep the chicken from drying out. The same can be achieved by wrapping the chicken in bacon slices...the fat in the bacon will help keep the chicken moist. Zucchini is the healthier choice!
- I will use more zucchini next time, I only had enough for 2 pieces per breast.
- It is important that both the pan and the oven are HOT. If they are not, the zucchini will start to release too much moisture and stew; the high heat will crisp it up right away.
- Thinly sliced eggplant can be used if you like; again, make sure you use a high heat.
- The chicken can be rubbed or marinated in whatever you choose. I like the mustard as it coats the chicken and creates a bit of a crust on the exposed parts when it is in the pan.
- Thyme was my choice, use whichever fresh herbs you have available. Most work well with chicken...rosemary, basil, tarragon are some good choices.
- No herbs? Use lemon, lime or orange zest instead.
- Hoisin sauce combined with minced garlic and ginger will add an Asian flavour...serve this with stir fried rice or noodles and vegetables.
- Firm fleshed fish such as cod, tuna or marlin can also be wrapped this way. Jumbo scallops or prawns can be individually wrapped, skewered and grilled on a well oiled grill.
- If you want to make a sauce, add chicken stock, wine or whipping cream to the pan while the chicken breasts are resting. Reduce slightly; whisk in some cold butter to the wine or chicken stock just before serving.
- You could stuff the chicken breasts before wrapping them...
- I removed the tenders from the chicken, cooked them with some salt and pepper, and they will be used to stuff spaghetti squash for tomorrow night (Baked Spaghetti Squash Stuffed with Chicken, Corn and Black Beans).