Chicken can be an easy go to after a hard day but if you’re not a Michelin rated chef it can get boring rather quick. Here’s an easy week night meal that will please the whole family. The chicken and asparagus are prepared in one dish which makes clean up a breeze. Bite for bite this dish is full of flavor and satisfaction.
To make whipping up a satisfying week night meal easy, it’s best to review all the steps you need to work through as well as assemble all your ingredients ahead of time. If you aren’t too comfortable with prepping and cooking at the same time don’t sweat it. The pros make it look so easy on television but their skills come after years and years of practice. It won’t ruin anything to do your cleaning and chopping before you start cooking. Sure, it may add a few minutes onto the whole shebang but it will be worth in the end when things come out just right rather than extra crispy.
To keep the prep and cook time down it’s best to opt for skinless, boneless chicken breasts. This is a quick meal so doing so will help expiate things. The small sacrifice of flavor the skin and bone imparts will more than be made up for. Fresh asparagus is also key to this recipe so don’t cut corners with anything else! The same goes for the parsley. Dried herbs pack more intense flavor but can taste dull and dusty if not cooked long enough. The goal here is for a fresh and light meal that packs a punch without a lot of fuss.
Keeping things flowing with minimal interruption is also why you’ll want to preheat your oven. If you’ve decided to prep all of your ingredients ahead of time I would suggest to filet your chicken last and start your oven preheating just before you start on the chicken. The goal is not not have to stand around and wait for your oven to reach the proper temperature.
While freshness is what we’re looking for out of the herbs, it might seem warranted to use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder. Fresh garlic could be used but it would require a bit of extra prep work. Also, as I mentioned before, we want a flavor punch. Garlic powder will do wonders in kicking things up. Just don’t be tempted to add too much more than what the recipe calls for. It really does pack some intense garlic flavor. Just a little dab will do you! If you want to add just one more subtle layer of depth to the flavor try using smoked paprika instead of regular. The smokiness is not very strong but it will make a delicious difference!
The prep work for the fresh asparagus and parsley really is a breeze. For the asparagus, all you want to do is get rid of the tough, woody ends. Pinch the asparagus starting at the bottom and stop when you feel just a tiny bit more give. This will let you know roughly how much to trim off so your asparagus turns out nice and tender.
For the parsley, trim off the majority of the non-leafy stem and discard it. Run your knife through what remains to give it a rough to fine chop. I prefer it a bit on the rough side vs fine, but this is totally up to what you desire. While most recipes will tell you to strip off the leaves and discard the entire stem portion, this really isn’t required. Not only does doing this add a bit of unnecessary prep work, the stem portions of non-woody herbs contain just as much flavor as the leaves. Again, this is really left up to what you prefer.
Now, you may ask, if the goal is to eliminate unnecessary prep to save time on a busy week night, way are we slicing up the chicken? Yes, getting rid of some prep work may help to speed things up initially, but you do not want to end up adding extra time later while cooking. By slicing the chicken breasts horizontally into thinner filets it shortens the time required to cook it to a safe temperature. This also lets the chicken cook all the way through in the same time as the asparagus. Eliminating steps can help from time to time. Just make sure you won’t regret leaving them out later on.
Now that the chicken is trimmed down to a more manageable size, season it and lay it out in an oiled baking dish. Then layer the asparagus on top. Remember what I said about wanting the chicken and asparagus to cook in the same amount of time? The thinner filets lets us cook them together in the same dish without under cooking the chicken or overcooking the asparagus. This also allows all that flavor to seep into both the chicken and the asparagus giving us more of the punch we’re looking for.
The lemon oil is one of the flavor powerhouses of this dish. Before cutting into the lemon, use a rasp or fine grater and get all of that yellow zest off. That yellow, oily potion of the skin is packed, and I mean PACKED, with flavor and you really want to get that into your dish. Gently scrape off just the thin yellow portion. The white portion underneath will be a tad bitter so you don’t want much of that to end up in your dish. After you’ve gathered your zest, squeeze the juice into a small bowl being careful to remove any seeds that may fall in. Add in the lemon zest and oil then whisk it together. Once It’s combined pour it over the chicken and asparagus as evenly as you can get it.
Once you’ve added the lemon oil, spread the grated mozzarella cheese evenly over everything and put in your preheated oven. When the chicken is almost cooked completely, usually by the last couple minutes of cook time, the cheese will be nice and bubbly and the kitchen should be smelling like you should have a few stars of your own. Switch the oven from bake to broil. This will kick up the heat over top of the chicken and brown the cheesy goodness to a nice golden color.
When the cheese has turned a mouthwatering golden brown you’ll take the dish out of the oven and add the crushed red pepper and fresh parsley. Cover the chicken lightly with foil so the it can rest. The resting process will allow the muscle fibers in the chicken to relax and draw back in some of those fantastically flavored juices. Did I mention this dish is packed with flavor?
As a side note, some people may not appreciate too much spice in their meal. While the crushed red pepper gives this dish just the right amount of kick, it may be too much for some people. You can opt to leave out the crushed red pepper entirely or serve it on the side to allow others to add how much or little the prefer.
Divide up the chicken and asparagus into portions and plate them up. I enjoyed this dish accompanied by a nice garden salad and some dinner rolls. Bon Appetit!
Cheesy Asparagus Lemon Chicken Bake
- 2 small bunches Asparagus
- 1/2 small bunch Parsley Flat Leaf
- 1 medium Lemon
- 1 1/2 lb Chicken Breast Boneless, Skinless
- 8 oz Mozzarella Cheese Shredded
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil Extra Virgin
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Wash and dry the fresh produce.
- Mix together the spices in a small bowl: Garlic Powder, Paprika, Salt, Black Pepper.
- Cut the chicken breasts horizontally into thin fillets. Place the fillets into an oiled baking dish and season with the spice mixture.
- Trim woody ends off of the asparagus. Divide and arrange on top of each chicken breast fillet.
- Grate the zest from the lemon. Juice the lemon and combine with the zest and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Pour the lemon/oil mixture over the seasoned chicken breast fillets and asparagus.
- Gate mozzarella cheese and sprinkle it over the top of the asparagus and chicken.
- Bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 min.
- Mince the parsley and set aside.
- Switch the oven to broil for the last 1-2 min of cooking and continue until the cheese is golden.
- Top the chicken and asparagus with crushed red pepper.
- Divide the chicken and asparagus into servings and garnish with fresh parsley.
- Try substituting smoked paprika for regular to give a bit of subtle depth to the flavor.
- While the crushed red pepper give this meal just the right amount of kick, it may to be to everyone's liking. Feel free to serve it on the side.
- Although the recipe did not specify to do so, I used a spritz of olive oil to prepare the baking dish. Just use one or two quick spritz and use a paper towel to evenly coat the inside of the dish. This will help keep things from sticking and make cleaning up later easier.
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Weeknight Chicken Doesn't Have To Be Boring
For a quick weeknight meal that is easy to prepare after a long day at work and won’t disappoint, look no further. Chicken is a go-to, easy to prepare protein but it can get quite boring rather quickly. Level up your chicken repertoire so the next time you see a special on fresh asparagus you’ll know exactly what to do!