Friday, June 29, 2012

Oven-Fried Brined Chicken Breast Rolled with Asparagus, Peppers and Four-Herb Pesto

To download a copy of this recipe for Oven-Fried Brined Chicken Breast Rolled with Asparagus, Peppers and Four-Herb Pesto, click HERE!

At a recent luncheon, one of the items served was a thin chicken breast rolled around asparagus and cut into pieces about 1” thick. Three or four made a serving. It was a good combination, and ample inspiration for today’s recipe: Oven-Fried Brined Chicken Breast Rolled with Asparagus, Peppers and Four-Herb Pesto. There are several ways in which this version takes the chicken breast in a somewhat different direction: the chicken breast is brined for added moisture and flavor; pesto is added to the inside of the roll, and red pepper is added to the asparagus; and the chicken breast is oven-fried instead of just baked.

Served on top of noodles with lemon and fresh chopped parsley (as in the photo above), or with rice, this is a great, fresh meal!

Some Cook’s Notes before we begin:
  • Use any pesto you like: purchased, your favorite recipe, or the four-herb pesto described below.
  • If you choose to make fresh pesto, as with so many cold-mix items, the flavor improves if you let it for a while or, even better, overnight.
  • The pesto portion of this recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups of pesto, which is far more than you’ll need to make the chicken. Put the remainder in a couple of sealed containers and refrigerate or freeze. Pesto is good to have around; you’ll think of something to do with it.
  • The chicken breast in this recipe is cut in half instead of into several 1” thick slices. There’s a reason for this: the breading (which the original I ate at the luncheon didn’t have) can start to fall off if the chicken is cut into smaller pieces. The breading itself is done with crushed cornflakes. When oven-frying, I've tried bread crumbs, panko, and various combinations of both, but I've just found that cornflakes give the best flavor and texture for the coating.
  • The chicken breasts are brined for about an hour. While brining a whole chicken can take several hours, doing smaller amounts of individual parts takes a good bit less time.
This recipe makes six servings.

First we’ll make the pesto. (If you’re using your own pesto recipe, or are using purchased pesto, just skip this part.)

Rough chop 2 cups packed fresh basil; ½ cup fresh parsley; ½ cup fresh oregano; ¼ cup fresh mint; and 2 cloves garlic. Combine with /3 cup pine nuts, and the juice of ½ lemon in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

While still pulsing the processor, drizzle in up to 1/3 cup of olive oil till the mixture is smooth and has the desired texture.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and stir in 1 cup of finely shredded parmesan, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To brine the chicken:

Dissolve 3 Tbsp kosher salt; 2 Tbsp granulated sugar; and 2 Tbsp brown sugar in 1 cup of boiling water.

Add the boiled solution to 3-1/2 cups of cold water. Stir to combine, and place in the refrigerator to chill completely.

Place 1-1/2 pounds of boneless chicken breast (3 breasts at about ½ pound each) in the brine and refrigerate for 60 to 90 minutes. While the chicken is brining, continue the preparations as described below.

To prepare the vegetables:

Place 9 to 12 toothpicks in a cup of water to begin soaking.

Trim the bottoms on 1 pound of asparagus, and slice two red bell peppers into strips about the same width as the asparagus.

Prepare an ice bath and begin boiling a pot of water. When the water is boiling, put in the asparagus and, after two minutes, put in the red pepper strips. Remove both after another minute. (In other words, you’re blanching the asparagus for three minutes and the pepper strips for one minute.)

Place both in the ice bath (“blanch and shock”) to stop the cooking while retaining color and texture. Drain and set aside.

To prepare the breading station:

Place 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a wide dish.

Combine 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour; ½ tsp salt; ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper; ¾ cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or similar); and 1 egg-substitute egg and mix till well-combined into a smooth batter. Place in a wide dish to the right of the flour.

Place 2 cups of crushed corn flakes in a wide dish to the right of the batter.

To prepare the chicken breast:

Butterfly one of the chicken breast and spread it out open. Spread some pesto over the chicken. (Don’t use too much; pesto has strong flavor, and a little goes a long way!) Lay some of the asparagus and pepper strips at one end of the chicken breast. (There should be enough asparagus and peppers left over to serve as a side dish as described below.)

Roll the chicken breast around the asparagus and peppers. Secure the roll with three or four of the soaked toothpicks.

To bread the rolled chicken breast:

Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat, shaking off the excess.

Roll the chicken in the batter to coat, shaking off the excess. Then roll the chicken in the corn flakes to coat, shaking off the excess.

Place the breaded chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat the breading steps for the remaining chicken breasts. When all three breasts are breaded and on the baking sheet, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
While the chicken breasts are in the refrigerator, begin preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the remaining asparagus and peppers into 1” pieces.

To bake the chicken:

Spray the breaded chicken with cooking spray and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake till the breasts are cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet half-way. When turning the tray, place a smaller try with the chopped asparagus and peppers into the oven to finish cooking.

When the chicken has finished baking, let rest on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cut each in half. (Each chicken breast should provide two servings.) Serve on top of noodles or rice, surrounded by the mixed chopped asparagus and peppers. REMEMBER TO REMOVE THE TOOTHPICKS BEFORE SERVING.

 To download a copy of this recipe for Oven-Fried Brined Chicken Breast Rolled with Asparagus, Peppers and Four-Herb Pesto, click HERE!

Hope you enjoy this fresh, delicious meal! And please be sure to visit again next week for another home-cooked, kitchen tested recipe. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. Asparagus and sweet red peppers are two of my all time favorite foods, so I'm sure this is delish! Of course, no pasta for me, but the rest sounds great!

    1. Glad you like it, Sandy! Pasta is my own favorite side for this, but any that works for you is just as good. And, while we are on that topic, if the sugar in the brine is a problem, it is easily replaced with a wide range of other brine ingredients.

  2. definitely you had to take a picture of the finished product! i'll make this for christmas :D