Chicken breasts are a great dinner standby, but you have to make a bit of an effort to elevate them from the downright dowdy. This dish of chicken breasts stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in Parma ham and roasted on a bed of cherry tomatoes, makes a great mid-week dinner. It would also work as a perfectly decent casual dinner party offering, especially if you substitute the cream cheese with some fancier ricotta cheese laced with freshly chopped herbs like basil, tarragon or sage. I tried it once with mozzarella – it didn’t work. I wrap the chicken in Parma ham, but you could alternatively use Serrano ham or even thinly sliced pancetta or streaky bacon. The dish takes only minutes to assemble and you can prepare it ahead of time, cover it and store it in the fridge. With one chicken breast per person, the quantities below are for four people.
Four skinless and boneless chicken breasts
Four slices of Parma ham
A carton of cherry tomatoes
A few springs of fresh thyme and/or rosemary
Four garlic cloves, squashed
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut a deep slit along one side of each chicken breast, without slicing right through. Place a dessertspoon of cream cheese into the pocket. Close the sides together to enclose the filling and then wrap the breast in a slice of Parma ham, making sure the ham covers the slit.
Repeat with the rest of the chicken and place the breasts on a bed of cherry tomatoes in an earthenware or glass baking dish which is just large enough to hold them. (I would normally use more tomatoes than I have in these pictures – I ran out).
Sprinkle over some balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Tuck in the garlic and herbs amid the tomatoes.
Cook at for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let the meat rest for five minutes. Serve a breast apiece, along with cherry tomatoes and the jus.
This works well served with homemade oven chips, rice or a salad. It is really good served with a ribbon pasta like tagliatelle, which you toss in the roasted tomato and their juices. If you like, you can slice the chicken into three or four discs and serve it fanned out on the plate, but I don’t bother.
Nuala Haughey is a Dublin-based journalist and communications consultant.