Chicken and Zucchini with Garlicky Tomato Sauce and Polenta
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Simple, lightly breaded chicken strips and pan-seared zucchini are dressed up with a flavorful tomato sauce loaded with garlic. Serve it over cakes of baked polenta for a warm, homey, and inviting dinner.
For extra photos and info on this recipe, visit The Briny Lemon blog at thebrinylemon.wordpress.com.
For the Polenta
2 cups water
1/2 cup instant polenta (pre-cooked cornmeal)
1/3 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella cheese
For the Sauce, Chicken, and Zucchini
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more, as desired
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup vegetable broth
flour, for dredging
1/2 tsp paprika
freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each cut lengthwise into 4 strips (about 1 1/4 lbs total)
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
2. Bring the water to a slight boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly stir in the polenta in a steady stream to prevent clumping. Continue stirring until the cornmeal thickens slightly, 1-2 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in the cheese, and season with salt. Stir until the mixture is thick but still pourable, about 2 minutes.
4. Pour the polenta into a lightly oiled 8 X 8 baking pan and tilt it back and forth to create a smooth, even layer. Bake uncovered until barely golden on the outside and still creamy on the inside, 30 minutes. Remove and let cool 5 minutes before slicing.
5. To make the sauce, place the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and red pepper flakes in a shallow bowl. With the back of a fork, mash the ingredients together until the garlic is pasty. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and continue mashing until well blended.
6. Heat a medium skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat and add the garlic mixture. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently, until very aromatic. Add the tomato paste and 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and stir 1 minute.
7. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer slowly 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm while the chicken cooks.
8. To prepare the chicken, combine the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper in a large, zip-top bag. Add the chicken and shake to coat well.
9. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Shake any excess flour from the chicken strips and add to the skillet. (Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.)
10. Fry 4 minutes on 1 side, then turn and fry 3 minutes on the other side, until golden and just cooked through. Remove to a plate and let rest while the zucchini cooks.
11. Add the zucchini rounds to the drippings in the skillet and sear, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes.
12. To serve, cut the polenta into 4 large squares (or 6 slices and save 2 for leftovers) and divide among plates. Lay 2 chicken strips over each and divide the zucchini among them. Spoon the tomato sauce over the chicken and polenta and serve right away.
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