In my seemingly endless quest to make chicken breast in every way known to humankind, I sometimes make Chicken Hasselback. This is not named after the “Baywatch” star and German singing sensation, you’re thinking of David Hasselhoff, whose musical stylings are beloved in the Bundesrepublik. No, “hasselback” refers to making a slit in something and filling it. When you slit a baked potato and add sour cream you create a kind of potato hasselback.
To make chicken hasselback you cut slits into chicken breasts and fill them with whatever you like. Spinach and ricotta. Bacon and cheddar. Garlicky yogurt. The chicken breast is your canvas and you are its budding painter Jack, from Titanic.
I’ve made chicken hasselback three different ways, but my “Italian” version is my favorite. Probably because it is very pepperoni pizza-like. This serves 2.
2 plump boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
As many thin slices of pepperoni as you have slits
1 large slice of mozzarella for every four slits
1 basil leaf per slit
1 jar of the best garlicky, herby tomato sauce that you can find
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, if you want, but that may be gilding the lily. Of course I use it. In abundance, and I offer no apologies.
Make slits in the chicken breasts, 6—8. Don’t slice through the bottom, and for that matter don’t get too close, otherwise the filling will break through.
Put these on a baking sheet or, best practice, in a glass 8 X 8 baking dish. These can get a little sloppy. Non-stick the sheet/dish.
Preheat an oven to 350 or 400 degrees. 350 works for me.
Into each breast slit dab a little of the sauce. Squeeze in a folded pepperoni slice, then a basil leaf, then a quartered slice of mozzarella. Over your costumed chicken breasts spoon a generous helping of more of the sauce, enough to cover everything.
Put this in the oven for about 30 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, leave the chicken in until it gets to 165 degrees. Take it out and let it cool/rest for about 5 minutes. If you want, sprinkle the parm or the padano on now so it melts in and joins the fun.
I serve this with nothing more than garlic-buttered spaghetti and toasted baguette slices (those can go in the oven along with the chicken hasselback during the last 5 minutes of cooking) because the basil leaves provide enough vegetables, don’t you think?