I must confess that weeknight dinners can be a major struggle in my house, which probably seems contradictory coming from someone who writes about food! It's true that my refrigerator is often filled with an eclectic group of ingredients—most of which cannot be transformed into any sort of suitable meal. I often find myself scavenging the pantry for anything I can pass off as adequate, and trust me when I tell you that a starving girl + Nutella does not equal dinner.
I, like a lot of you, am in constant search of weeknight recipes that are quick yet delicious for those days when nothing seems to be going as planned. It helps that I don't consider canned and frozen ingredients to be the root of all culinary evil; in many cases they have come to the rescue in my greatest moments of need. One of the amazing convenience foods I discovered last year was frozen puff pastry. (I know, I know. I am yet again the last one on the wagon.) I went from being totally skeptical to thinking it was the most genius time-saver known to man. In fact, a few boxes now maintain full-time residency in my freezer.
Which brings us to this easy pesto chicken "tart." Ever since my love affair with this delicious recipe, I have found countless other ways to eat puff pastry for dinner. Of course you can use any assortment of ingredients to accomplish this recipe, both fresh or store-bought, but the classic basil-chicken-cheese combination never gets old to me—not to mention I usually have all of those ingredients lurking somewhere in my fridge.
As my fiancé and I devoured every last flaky bite, I made a mental note to keep this one in regular rotation. It is definitely not winning any points for creativity, but this flavorful tart sure gets extra credit for taste!
Pesto Chicken Tart
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 small head of peeled garlic cloves (optional)
3 heaping tablespoons basil pesto, homemade or store bought
1 scant cup cooked, diced chicken breast
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove one sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes. If using garlic, place cloves on a baking sheet and cook in the oven until soft and light golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Allow the cloves to cool and then chop finely.
Unfold the puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, pressing and pinching to close any holes in the seams. Using a fork, prick the dough all over—including the edges—to prevent it from puffing during baking.
Brush the pesto in a thin layer over the dough. Scatter the roasted garlic across the pesto. Toss the chicken with a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Layer the chicken on the tart, followed by the mozzarella and the Parmesan. Season with kosher salt and pepper.
Bake until the the cheese is melted and light golden brown, approximately 15-25 minutes (start checking early). Remove the tart from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately.
Note: You can easily sub pizza or flat bread dough in this recipe, or any other bread base you can think of. Also, I scattered some diced tomatoes on one of my slices for some extra color (see last photo); feel free to do the same if you have some ripe ones lying around.
Related: Summer Flavor: 10 Ways to Use Pesto
(Images: Nealey Dozier)