This lovely bright dish bursts with sunny flavours. One of the really nice things about it is the contrast of the gooey cheese filling with the crunchy parmesan crust and the refreshing tang of the salsa.
5 thick slices stale, white bread, crusts removed (about 90g trimmed weight)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 teaspoons chopped thyme
Finely grated zest of a lemon
About 3/4 cup of plain flour, to coat
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 chicken breast fillets
About 100g marinated fetta, thinly sliced
Extra chopped thyme leaves
Olive oil, for cooking
Lemon juice, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Garnish: thyme leaves and sprigs
Tomato and olive salsa
4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
120g kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 teaspoons thyme leaves (or 1 tablespoon torn basil leaves)
Sea salt, to taste
Whiz the bread in a food processor until it’s reduced to coarse crumbs. Add the parmesan, garlic, 3 teaspoons of chopped thyme and lemon zest and whiz it all again until the breadcrumbs are fine. Tip it into a large shallow bowl.
Pour the flour into a wide bowl. Whisk the eggs and mustard together in a shallow bowl.
Pat the chicken dry and remove the narrow little tenderloin strip on the underside of each fillet. (You can freeze these for another day, or crumb and sauté them too.) With a sharp knife, carefully cut a pocket in the thicker side of each fillet, making the opening fairly narrow but widening it out inside. (Be a bit careful here not to cut right through the chicken or the cheese will ooze out as it melts.) Roll the fetta slices in the extra chopped thyme and stuff each pocket with them. Press the edges of the pocket together to seal it as tightly as possible.
Line up the bowls of flour, egg mixture and parmesan and thyme breadcrumbs in front of you to form a bit of a production line. Coat one fillet at a time. First, dredge it in the flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip it into the egg mixture so it’s thoroughly coated, then let any excess egg drip away. Finally, squash it down into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs on with your hands to make them stick. As each fillet is ready, sit it on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Chill the fillets for at least 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours.
To make the salsa, simply stir all the ingredients together in a bowl. Set it aside in a cool spot.
To cook the chicken, heat a shallow layer of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium/low heat. Cook the fillets until they’re deep golden brown and springy, about 5 minutes per side depending on their size (just use your commonsense here; really large ones will take a bit longer.) Adjust the heat as you go to make sure the crust doesn’t become too dark and burn before the chicken is cooked through. (If you’re cooking the tenderloins, they will only take about 2 minutes per side.)
Remove the fillets and drain them on paper towel. Sprinkle them with a little lemon juice and salt. What I usually do to serve them is cut each fillet in half and prop up one half against the other, then spoon a little salsa around them. Serves 4.