This is the way I teach my students how to turn a simple dish into a perfect dish, or a restaurant quality one. What makes a dish more than a meal, but an experience? If you pay careful attention to the techniques in this recipe, you can replicate it in other dishes and make restaurant-style dishes at home any time.
The main thing I teach is to keep three principles in mind when composing any dish. They are: crunchy, saucey, and fresh. If you remember this, you can turn a dish into a memorable experience.
In this recipe, for crunch, we’ll make breadcrumbs.
For sauce, it will be our olive oil tomato sauce.
And for fresh, basil and zucchini noodles.
If you have these components (in other forms for other cuisines) right before serving your dish, the play on textures and contrasts will wow your guests or family. Just try it.
This recipe will take you through how to make all these components- all in one pan, and with just 8 ingredients. So, if you thought you needed a commercial kitchen and your own personal dishwasher to make restaurant quality food, think again. This recipe is not about fancy techniques, just learning a few special tricks.
Zucchini al Pomodoro
- 1⁄2 cup breadcrumbs or Panko
- 1⁄4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 1⁄2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 2 zucchini, shaved to noodles (you can substitute with spaghetti)
Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C)
Finely mince 3 cloves of garlic
1. Breadcrumbs. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large frying pan. Toast them with a medium low heat for just a couple minutes, tossing with a spoon constantly. Once the breadcrumbs are golden brown, turn off the heat. (about 2 minutes) Transfer breadcrumbs immediately to a plate or baking tray to cool. As they cool, they will get more crispy. Keep that pan you cooked them in, we’ll use it to cook the rest of our dish.
2. Zucchini Noodles. Get a vegetable peeler and lay the zucchini on a flat surface. Hold the zucchini firmly and pull the peeler across the zucchini.Continue until you cannot get anymore peels from it. Store them in the refrigerator until we’re ready for them.
3. Chicken. Start with 2 chicken breasts. Pat dry your chicken breasts with a paper towel. This ensures it will get golden brown in the pan, not steam. After they’re dry, season the chicken breasts with a pinch of salt and pepper.
In a saute pan, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil. When oil is hot, add chicken breast into the pan. Be sure not to crowd the pan – cook in two batches if needed. Cook until chicken is golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes. Cook until chicken is cooked, or juices run clear, not pink when poked.
Once cooked, remove the chicken and place it on a plate. Cover chicken with foil to keep warm. Take the pan off the heat, but don’t clean yet! We’ll use it to cook everything else, and it has great flavor in it.
4. Tomato-garlic sauce. Using the same pan we used for chicken add 3 cloves of finely minced garlic. The pan should not be on heat at this point. The pan is already hot and the garlic will cook fast. When the sizzle sound is almost gone, turn the heat on to medium low. Use a spoon to scrape up the bits in the pan. Cook until the garlic smells great, around 1 minute. You’re looking for just golden brown on the edges of the garlic.
Then, immediately add 1 1⁄2 cups cherry tomatoes. Stand back when adding tomatoes in. The oil may splatter. Cook the tomatoes until they burst (usually a couple minutes). After the tomatoes burst, put your shaved zucchini into the pan and toss them for just a minute or two or until they start to soften a little. You don’t want to overcook your zucchini noodles because they will get too soft and mushy. Less cooking is better. Turn off heat.
5. Plating. Spoon zucchini with sauce onto the center of a plate. Once the zucchini is on the plate, use your hands to gently form a tower to get the greatest height for the best visual appeal. Spoon a few tomatoes onto the plate at the bottom of your zucchini tower. Go for odd numbers like 3 or 5 tomatoes for a nice aesthetic. d. Add sliced chicken breast to the side of the plate or on a side dish. Top with your toasted breadcrumbs and some extra cheese, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil.