So tonight’s post doesn’t really have a recipe with, but combines a few of my favorites from the blog for a nice, cohesive plating. The recipes for tonight are my Chicken Milanese (link here) and a variety of Pesto (links here, here, and here, if you can’t tell I like pesto). Separately, these make for great, versatile elements of a meal; combined they make for an excellent easy meal. When trying to come up with a cohesive meal, my general approach looks to versatile techniques that can be adapted easily. This way I am able to weave common flavors throughout the plate.
Most of the time a good meal pairing should not be jarringly dissimilar. You want some complimentary or common flavors in each dish. That said, you don’t want them to be too similar. Having everything taste exactly the same can be boring. I often have to rein Rob in on this, as he often uses too many common elements across recipes. You really want to find a common flavor or two at most. That way they are linked but have their own dynamic on the plate.
For this plate, that common piece was the fresh, light basil element. It weaves together the pesto and caprese nicely, while serving as a nice complimentary flavor for the Milanese. The chicken then provides a nice textural contrast to the caprese.
The beauty of pesto is that you can basically make it with any green leafy ingredient you want. This gives it a wide range of flavors to play with. Want a peppery note? Use arugula. Want it light and bright? Go with classic basil. For this dish I used a combo of spinach and basil for a slightly milder, balanced flavor.
This versatility also allows you to be health, allergy, and budget friendly. If there is any ingredient that is too expensive or an allergy concern (say the traditional pine nuts, for both really) you can just use something else, still have a great flavor and call it your own.
Similarly, Milanese is a very versatile way to prepare chicken for an Italian recipe. Its good as a stand alone protein dish, atop a light salad with a vinaigrette, or even atop a pasta dish. The mild flavor and crispy texture allow it to be a jack-of-all-trades on your plate.
Lastly, was the caprese side pairing. Caprese makes for a nice, bright side of fresh flavors. Given that the chicken is pan fried, it can be the slightest bit heavy. The fresh mozzarella and tomato help balance that. Plus the basil in the pesto is perfectly at home with the caprese elements, allowing you to combine bites of everything.
Overall, this approach to meal planning almost always results in a cohesive meal that is also balanced. The bites of each element of the plate combine to form natural pairings that just work on the tongue and generally sound awesome when explained.