Tuscan Chicken Breast with Polenta
Yield: Makes 8 servings
Cornmeal is ground from dried white or yellow corn and is a versatile grain high in fiber and many essential nutrients. Polenta, a staple of northern Italy, is a mush made from cornmeal. Here, it is cooled until firm, then sliced, lightly browned, and topped with an herbed tomato sauce.
4 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8 skinless chicken breasts (about 3 pounds)
Tuscan Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
Nonstick cooking spray
Fresh spinach leaves, steamed (optional)
- Bring chicken broth to a boil in large saucepan over high heat; slowly stir in polenta. Reduce heat to low; cook 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or until mixture is very thick and pulls away from side of pan. (Mixture may be lumpy.) Pour polenta into greased 9” x 5” loaf pan. Cool; cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until firm.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper in small bowl; rub on all surfaces of chicken. Arrange chicken, meaty side up, in single layer in 13” x 9” baking pan. Bake, uncovered, about 45 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear.
- Meanwhile, prepare Tuscan Tomato Sauce; keep warm.
- Remove polenta from pan; transfer to cutting board.
- Place spinach leaves, if desired, on serving plates. Arrange polenta slices and chicken over spinach; top with Tuscan Tomato Sauce.
Tuscan Tomato Sauce
1 pound canned plum tomatoes
A clove of garlic
A stick of celery about 6 inches long
A small carrot
A quarter of a medium onion
A small bunch of parsley
A fresh or dried hot pepper,
ribbed and seeds discarded (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon sugar (optional)
A small bunch of basil
- Mince the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, red pepper, and parsley. Chop the basil.
- Place the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, pepper, and parsley in a pot or deep sauté pan, add a few drops of olive oil, and sauté until vegetables are tender.
- Add tomatoes and sugar and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
- Toss in basil; salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Homemade stock makes a world of difference in soups, sauces, and entrees. To save time, do like Grandma used to do and make a whole vat of stock. After cooling properly, pour into ice-cube trays and freeze. This will yield easy-to-use portions for any size meal.
Michael Atanasio is the manager of Food & Nutrition for Overlook Hospital. He has more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant and healthcare industries and has competed in and won numerous culinary competitions. In 2000, he was named Chef of the Year.