My parents are both amazing cooks and much of my love and respect for cooking and eating comes from growing up in a household where most of our meals were cooked from (mostly) scratch. But what ignited my insatiable curiosity about new recipes, unfamiliar ingredients, and different flavor combinations was actually the Food Network. Cooking shows brought recipes into my home and through powerful visual persuasion (mouth-watering closeups of fresh ingredients and sizzling sautée pans), encouraged me to try these recipes at home. One of my favorite shows is the incredible and magnanimous Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa, with her to-die-for luxurious Hampton kitchen, effortless parties and luncheons, charmingly goofy Jeffrey, and fabulous table-decorating friends. Her recipes are simple, classic, and rich with quality ingredients that produce seemingly extravagant dishes.
This recipe is representative of Ina’s recipes: simple ingredients, but the end result feels luxurious and completely disguises its humble beginnings. A weekday chicken dish can be transformed into extravagance befitting a weekend dinner party by baking herbed goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh basil underneath the skin until oozy, crispy, and totally delicious.
Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato
adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network
3 boneless chicken breasts, skin-on
4 to 5 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (Ina recommends Montrachet)
3 sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan. (I prepped mine on a cutting board, then moved them to a cast iron skillet for baking.) Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving 1 side attached. Cut the goat cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place 1 or 2 slices plus 1/3 of the julienned sun-dried tomatoes under the skin of each chicken breast (and, if using, 1-2 fresh basil leaves). Pull the skin over as much of the meat as possible so the chicken won’t dry out. With your fingers, rub each piece with olive oil, and sprinkle them very generously with salt and pepper. Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes (in the cast iron skillet, mine cooked in about 25 minutes), until the skin is lightly browned and the chicken is just cooked through.