JUNE 25, 2018

Weeknight Cooking: Foiled

After years of following a particular recipe for chicken in a foil packet – chicken, mozzarella, zucchini, and tomatoes – it dawned on me this time around that this type of meal could become not only easily personalized but could become its own sort of regularly prepared subgenre…the sky is the limit.  

The standard recipe called for a chicken breast to be split open and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, which is then set on aluminum foil and piled over by sliced zucchini and tomatoes, splashed with olive oil, seasoned, then wrapped and cooked.  

In its own right, this a good family style meal – the ingredients end up quite soft, the vegetables more as textural support to chicken that stands out as soft and cheesy.  Yet, I wondered, why not marinade the chicken first in a tangy vinaigrette to deepen the flavor?

This time I chose our deli selection of chicken breasts instead of the pre-wrapped. These tend to be thicker cut and provide one edge that is conveniently wide to cut and stuff with cheese.  

I took my roll of fresh mozzarella, cut it into quarter inch slices, soaked them in olive oil and some leaves of fresh basil, then placed them in the chicken.  Spray a foil sheet with olive oil, place the breast down on center, and pile with virtually any vegetable.  I chose zucchini again, both yellow and green, a few stalks of asparagus, sliced roma tomatoes, then slipped one small dice of garlic over the top for aroma.  I could see small button mushrooms being a great addition; baby carrots; even a few green beans, maybe all drizzled with honey and a mere dash of mustard instead of the marinade for next time.  In a 400 oven, our five packets took about 45 minutes to become perfectly cooked.  The fewer the vegetables, or the thinner the chicken breast, the less time.  

The foil cover protects the chicken very well and it would be hard to imagine a combination that would ever come out as dry as, say, a grilled version can sometimes produce.  With a side of simple rice, the packets are little adventures to open up, to see and smell.  This would also be a very easy style of meal to allow the children of the house to create on their own, virtually piling in the ingredients, wrapping, baking, and opening within an hour’s time.