Tapenade Stuffed Chicken Piccata

If I can enjoy an italian dish with zero cheese, it is not enough to call it a win. If I can enjoy an italian dish with zero cheese (i.e. mozzarella all day, everyday), I would call it an extraordinary accomplishment of something phenomenal. So I may be dramatizing that situation a bit. But this dish, for real, no drama, is something phenomenal: delicious, healthy, Paleo, and easy.

After a long day in training, I was craving something fresh and savory but also low-maintenance. That’s what I enjoy cooking the most: clean and simple. (Side note: teachers go through extensive, continuous education. Did you know that? Our brains are constantly absorbing the new, the better, the best. And after a few short weeks of summer/sleeping until 12 pm for no reason, it’s exhausting. Stepping down off my high horse now). I’ve mentioned it before, cooking is my downtime. I typically put on music, or mindless television, and get in the zone, with Moon laying on the edge of the bed watching me. It’s truly the best…

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61RD8GSg1aL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBefore I get into the recipe, I need to give a bit of background where cookbooks are involved in my kitchen. I love cookbooks. I do not follow recipes. I love finding inspiration from dishes already created. I cannot follow step-by-step instructions. For me, cookbooks are like  picture books are to a young child. I look at the picture, I read the title, I go back to the picture, and then I skim the recipe. Done. My version will, without a doubt, vary in ingredients and method. That is what makes cooking exciting for me! That being said, because I do this, I fail forward a LOT. Maybe I should follow the recipe? I don’t know. I like living on the edge a little. This recipe is inspired by one from the Whole30 Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig.

For Tapenade Stuffed Chicken Piccata, the best place to start is by creating the tapenade. Tapenade, by definition, is a dip mixture of black olives, capers, and anchovies. So, this is a variation of a tapenade: roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, capers, artichoke hearts, garlic, basil, lemon juice, avocado oil, salt, and pepper. That’s it. Remember when I mentioned simple earlier? Semi-homemade. Smarter, not harder. Buy the roasted red peppers already chopped deli-style. Grab the olives pitted and sliced. Same goes for the artichoke hearts, buy them quartered and ready to go.

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Rinse and drain all of these ingredients, including the capers, to lessen the amount of salt. Combine them all in a bowl, add garlic, avocado oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and then….NINJA! Without fully blending, give the food processor a few good pulses to combine the ingredients and give it a more uniform texture. This could allow for all kinds of variations – get creative!

I made the tapenade a good 30 minutes before prepping the meal, to let the flavors marinade. (Totally not a necessity.)

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But now, the chicken. I used two full chicken breasts. Pat them dry (better for the hot pan, but also easier to handle). Using a sharp knife, cut a slit to create a pocket. Holding the chicken down with a steady flat palm, start with the thickest, meatiest part and slowly cut through, trying not to cut through the top or bottom of the chicken breast. Season the outside with salt and pepper and then get ready to do some stuffing.

You are stuffing the chicken with…the tapenade! Because it is the best for just that! It keeps the chicken moist while cooking and creates a glorious burst of flavor when you take that first bite. I stuff a good palm-sized amount into each chicken breast. You can use toothpicks to seal the stuffing within the pocket, but I don’t mind some of it spilling out and adding to the outside flavor of the chicken.

In a cast-iron skillet, on medium heat, I cooked the chicken for about 3-5 minutes on each side, just to brown the outside. In a baking dish, I covered the bottom with avocado oil. I used small Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise, to line the perimeter of the dish. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. So good alongside the chicken! 375 for 25 minutes and that’s it. Almost.

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Piccata, in terms of italian dishes, means there is butter and there is lemon and there are capers (aka all that is good in the world). For this recipe, I used Ghee, or clarified butter. Using the cast-iron skillet from before, I sautéed a bit of rough chopped garlic, adding chicken bone stock, Ghee, and capers. To thicken, I added Arrowroot Flour Starch. After whisking for a bit, it made a lemony, buttery, caper(y) gravy-like sauce to pour over the chicken and tomatoes.

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And, that’s it. For real. I added a bit of tapenade to the top and garnished with green onion because green onions give an excellent pop of flavor without being too much, you know?

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You can see the stuffing inside the chicken. Yum. Tip: eat a piece of a roasted tomato with every bite of chicken. You’re welcome. IMG_0592

Leftover tapenade can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a week. It is wonderful to use as a dip with small, sweet bell peppers, or to top off crackers, or simply by itself on a spoon. Like, just eat it by the spoonful.

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Ingredients

For the Tapenade

1 cup of deli-style roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup of quartered and marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup of pitted and sliced kalamata olives, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/3 cup of avocado oil (or olive oil)
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Chicken Piccata

2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of avocado oil
6-8 small Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon of salt to season
Pepper
1/4 cup of Chicken Bone Broth
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)
2 tablespoons of capers
1 tablespoon of Ghee (or clarified butter)
1/2 tablespoon of Arrowroot Flour
2 tablespoons of sliced green onions

Instructions

For the Tapenade

  1. Rinse and drain the roasted red peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, and capers.
  2. Roughly chop the red peppers, olives, and artichoke hearts.
  3. Roughly chop the basil and garlic.
  4. Combine all ingredients into a food processor. Add avocado oil and lemon juice.
  5. Pulse 3-4 times to create a uniform texture of ingredients.

For the Chicken Piccata

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of avocado oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the chicken breast to brown the outside, turning once; cooking each side for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
  2. Coat the bottom of a medium to large baking dish with a tablespoon of avocado oil. Toss in the Roma tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Distribute the tomato halves around the perimeter of the dish.
  3. Place the chicken breasts in the center of the baking dish. Bake the chicken and tomatoes for 2o to 25 minutes, until cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and let rest while making the sauce.
  4. In the original skillet, saute garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Slowly add the broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then turn the temperature to a low, letting the liquids simmer and reduce. Whisk in Ghee and arrowroot flour until the sauce reaches a slightly thicker consistency. Stir in capers.
  5. Plate the chicken breasts and tomatoes, cover with sauce, garnish with green onion.

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