I enjoy all meats, but I have to say, chicken is a wonderful carrier of flavour. From the skin and the breast, to the wing and leg meat, it really does offer lots of different flavours and textures to work with. So this week, I wanted to give you one of my favourite weeknight dishes that embraces the most popular part of the bird: the breast. Bashed until thin, seasoned and grilled quickly, this is a great way to get tender, tasty meat in no time at all.
I've paired it with arrabbiata (literally translated as "angry" in English), which is basically a spicy tomato sauce from Sicily. It's punchy, flavour-packed and a proper sinus cleanser. Instead of making it with crushed dried chilies, I've fried whole chilies in oil (be careful to prick them with a sharp knife first, or they will explode in your face) to get a fantastic robust chili sweet flavour, which I think is what arrabbiata should be all about. Together, this is a great dinner that's guaranteed to be an instant hit, if your family is anything like mine.
Just a bit of advice when it comes to buying chicken: I recommend looking for organic, pasture-raised or certified– humane chickens, rather than the basic birds found in so many restaurants and shops these days. I've been to farms of both basic and higherwelfare standards, and there's absolutely no way I'd feed basic chickens to my kids – if you'd seen the conditions, you wouldn't either.
Servings: 4 to 6
4 organic, pasture-raised or certified-humane chicken breasts
Sea salt and black pepper
5 fresh red chilies
6 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of fresh basil
3 398-ml tins of plum tomatoes
10 black olives (pits in)
1 ¼ pounds (600 grams) mixed ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons small capers
2 handfuls of arugula
½ a lemon
Place the chicken breasts between 2 layers of parchment paper and bash with a rolling pin until thick. Season the chicken with sea salt, black pepper and rub all over with a little drizzle of oil. Set aside.
Prick 4 chilies, finely slice 4 cloves of garlic, then pick the basil leaves. Heat a good lug of oil in a medium pan over a low heat, then add the chilies, garlic, basil stalks and half the leaves.
Cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.
Remove the basil leaves (which should be beautifully translucent) and save them for later. Fish out the chilies, scrape off the skins, then slice them open and remove the seeds. Return the flesh to the pan.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the tinned tomatoes and remaining basil leaves. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, then allow the sauce to bubble away for at least 20 minutes, or until it has thickened and the tomatoes have broken down.
Pit and tear up the olives, roughly chop the tomatoes, then add to the sauce along with most of the capers. Season to taste.
Place a griddle pan on a high heat and allow it to get super hot. Once hot, place the chicken breasts on the griddle and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through.
Leave to rest for a couple of minutes, then slice the chicken into long strips.
To serve, peel and finely slice the remaining garlic and fry it in a little olive oil along with the remaining capers until crispy.
Pour the tomato sauce onto a platter and lay the chicken slices on top.
Deseed, finely chop and sprinkle with chili, along with the garlic, capers, arugula and basil leaves.
Finely grate over some lemon zest and Parmesan, then serve.