Pesto Chicken Al Cartoccio

We are using a parchment paper technique here, in which the food is steamed inside the paper, using very little oil. In Italian, "in parchment" is "al cartoccio" and in French it is "en papillote". It's a healthy, easy and quick way to make chicken, fish or just plain old vegetables taste delicious.

This is great for "stretching a budget" as you only need 2 large chicken breasts to serve 6 people.
Serves 6

For the Chicken in Parchment You'll Need: 6 Sheets of parchment paper (each sheet about 22" wide and 15" tall; do not use wax paper), olive oil spray, 2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts (free range preferred), 1 red bell pepper (julienned), 1 shallot (thinly sliced), 1 large purple carrot (julienned), 1 large parsnip (julienned), 1 cup corn (fresh, removed from corn cob), pesto (recipe follows), 6 large sprigs fresh thyme, salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste

For the Pesto You'll Need: 1.5 cups fresh basil, 1/4 cup fresh tarragon, 1/4 cup fresh spearmint, 1-2 whole garlic cloves (skin removed), pinch kosher salt, pinch freshly grated black pepper, 1/3 cup unsalted pine nuts, 1/4 tsp fresh lemon zest, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated), 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

How to Prepare Pesto: In a large food processor, combine the herbs, garlic, salt, pepper, pine nuts and lemon zest. Pulse until everything is chopped up and combined well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil from the top, while the motor is running. Stop the machine. Scrape the sides down. Add the cheese and pulse a few times until combined.

Note, Use organic, fresh vegetables and herbs if you can, for the best flavor.

How to Prepare the Chicken: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fold parchment paper sheets in half width wise. Using scissors, start cutting at the bottom left corner and cut upward into a half heart shape. When you open it up, it will be a large heart. Spray each sheet with olive oil spray and set aside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and cut each chicken breast into 9 thin strips (length wise). Place chicken in a preparation bowl. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over the chicken. Place 3 strips of chicken on the parchment heart (to the right of the seam). Sprinkle an even amount of bell pepper, shallot, carrot, parsnip and corn on top of the chicken. Spoon a couple spoonfuls of pesto on top. Place a whole thyme sprig on top. Rotate the parchment packet so that the curved part of the parchment heart is closest to your stomach. Make a small fold (where the curved edge meets the flat perpendicular edge) on the parchment heart. Continue to make little pleated folds all the way around the heart edge until you get to about 2-3 inches from the bottom of the heart shape. Turn the bottom portion 3-4 times into a little handle or tail, closing off the parchment packet, so that the steam will stay inside the parchment packet. Place on a large baking sheet (3 parchment packets should easily fit on a baking sheet). Repeat with the remaining 5 parchment packets. Bake on the center racks for 25-30 minutes. Leave the packets closed until you serve them so that each guest can open his or her own little package. Or, open the package and transfer the food to a serving plate, discarding the parchment paper. This is great with a side of couscous or quinoa. Enjoy.

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