One of life’s greatest pleasures is biting into a caprese salad. Sweet, vine ripened tomatoes bursting with flavor are layered with creamy mozzarella, sweet basil and then generously sprinkled with Kosher salt and pepper. The final touch is a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a flavorful balsamic. It’s truly a perfect, yet simple, dish. All of these lovely flavors also pair well with chicken so it was only logical to turn this beloved salad into a heartier dish of Chicken Caprese.
Simplicity is key with this meal. You will want to keep the flavors clean and bright so that the caprese salad shines and isn’t overpowered by a piece of chicken that is too bold and over seasoned. A basic salt and pepper rub with a drizzle of balsamic is all the chicken needs to be perfect. The fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil will pack the flavor punch once it all comes together. I served this dish alongside Garlic Parmesan Pasta which was a perfect accompaniment to this meal.
To intensify the flavor in this dish, opt for a balsamic reduction* in place of just straight vinegar. Drizzling vinegar straight from the bottle is more than fine however, reducing it down first will create a richer and more flavorful profile. It will also thicken considerably making it more likely to cling to the chicken. Take care when choosing your vinegar, there are many cheap options out there but for the best flavor, it’s worth investing a few extra dollars for a quality vinegar. I get all of my vinegar (and oil) at The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY. They have an exceptional collection of oil and vinegar in so many unique and delicious flavors. If you’re not local, no worries, you can order right online! For this recipe I used their Traditional Balsamic which is excellent.
*To reduce vinegar – On the stovetop bring the vinegar to a simmer over medium-high heat then turn the heat down to low to keep it simmering. It will take about 15 minutes for the vinegar to reduce down, watch it carefully towards the end so it does not burn. You will know the vinegar is ready when it becomes thick and can coat the back of a spoon.
- 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, halved and then halved horizontally
- 3-4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed for browning
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbs balsamic vinegar, plus more for drizzling
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced very thin and sprinkled with Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
- handful of fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Rub the chicken with salt, pepper, and minced garlic until coated. Drizzle the balsamic over the chicken and lightly rub it in.
Place olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering add the chicken. Cook until lightly browned on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan, work in batches until all of the chicken has been browned. Place the chicken in a 9X13 baking dish coated lightly with cooking spray and drizzle with the remaining pan juices. Drizzle additional balsamic to taste.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the juices run clear and the chicken is cooked through. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, remove the chicken from the oven and place 1-2 slices of tomato on each piece of chicken followed by 1-2 slices of fresh mozzarella. Lightly sprinkle the tops with Kosher salt and pepper. Return the pan to the oven and finish off the chicken. To melt and brown the cheese a little more, place the pan under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, watch closely so that the cheese doesn’t burn.
Remove from the oven. Using a spoon, drizzle each piece of chicken with the pan juices. Garnish with the basil ribbons. Serve hot.