POLLO ALLA PESTO PIZZA (ITALIAN-FUSION)
Every now and then, reaching somewhere deep into my hip pocket, I'll craft a new creation so exceptional that my wife spends the entire meal haranguing me about how I ought to give up journalism and open a restaurant. I don't THINK so, although I have to say that I appreciate the compliment. :)
Anyway, tonight was such a night, with a variety of different recipes and notions that I've been kicking around lately (caprese, grilled chicken, Near Eastern aromatic spices and pizza) all fell together into a Med Rim invention that wasn't hard to make but that really seemed to transcend the sum of its parts.
A couple of hours before dinner, remove the skin and de-bone four chicken breasts. Place them in a large, shallow bowl, sprinkle them with salt, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon and cumin, and coat them with a marinade made from 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 4 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon lemon-flavored vodka. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, turning occasionally.
Make a little pesto using any recipe of your choosing; I went with the standard food-processor version posted here earlier this summer, processing 2 cups fresh basil leaves with 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 2 thin-sliced garlic cloves cooked in 1/4 cup olive oil and allowed to cool, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, processed into a paste.
Cut a fresh, fully ripe and juicy garden tomato into four thick slices.
Cut four slabs of fresh mozzarella, sized to fit on top of each tomato slice.
Fire up the Weber barbecue kettle, and when the coals are ready, place down the grill and let it heat up. Grill the chicken breasts over direct heat for two to three minutes on a side, until the exterior is crunchy and brown. Move them to indirect heat, and place a tomato slice on top of each breast, topped with a slab of mozzarella and a spoonful of pesto. Allow to continue cooking over indirect heat until the chicken is done, the tomatoes are warm and the mozzarella melting, about five more minutes. Serve, using the rest of the pesto as a topping for a pasta side dish.
The combination of the grilled chicken with Near Eastern marinade and the pizza-like topping of fresh tomatoes, melty mozz' and pesto has to be experienced to be believed. Trust me, it's worth the (minimal) effort, and it even looks great on the serving plate!