Caprese Risotto with Blackened Balsamic Chicken

Who doesn't like the combination of juicy, ripe tomatoes, velvety mozzarella, and fresh basil? If you don't, skip this post. And maybe reevaluate your life view.

I had a healthy amount of fresh mozz and grape tomatoes leftover from this Chili Spiced Haddock dish, so caprese something was an easy decision. Risotto is on my regular dinner rotation, and although I had never combined it with these flavors, it seemed like it would combine perfectly with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. And, for the meat lovers among us, I added a chicken breast, pounded thin and marinated with tangy balsamic vinegar, on top of each creamy, yummy bowl.

{Recipe at bottom}

Prep your caprese elements while the risotto is cooking.

Mmm. That cheese is about to get real gooey.

It seemed essential to serve this with a mini caprese skewer on the side. 

Caprese Risotto with Blackened Balsamic Chicken 
Serves 4

{Chicken & Marinade}
2 large chicken breasts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

With a sharp knife, butterfly the two chicken breasts, cutting completely into two pieces each, approximately 1 cm thick. If needed, flatten further with a meat tenderizer (or heavy rolling pan, a jar, whatever blunt object you have handy) to get them to roughly 1 cm.

Mix together all marinade ingredients in a gallon zip lock bag. Add chicken, coat thoroughly, and marinade in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours. 

Now, on to the risotto. In a large saucepan over low heat, combine chicken broth and wine and bring to a simmer. Keep mixture warm. 

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Add rice and sauté until the edges of the grains are translucent, another 5 minutes or so. 

Turn down heat to low. Ladle enough of the broth mixture to just cover rice. Stirring every few minutes, cook down until the liquid is absorbed. Add another round of broth mixture to cover rice. 

Repeat previous step until all liquid is absorbed (this takes me 4 batches of liquid and about 30 minutes). 

Add basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.

{Ideally, you'll want to cook the chicken breasts simultaneously with the risotto, in between liquid additions. It will only take 8-10 minutes to cook, and then another 5 minutes or so to rest.}

Preheat a cast iron grill pan on the stove (or start up an actual grill) over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

Sear chicken breasts in grill pan for 4-5 minutes, flip, repeat. Check for doneness; they should be cooked through at this point.

Remove chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes (this will help retain moisture). This is a good window to complete the last step of the risotto (adding all the caprese elements).

Slice chicken on the diagonal; arrange on top of each bowl of risotto. Optional: make a cute little skewer on a toothpick with a grape tomato, folded basil leaf, and two halves of a mini mozzarella ball.

Bon appetit!