With layers of zucchini being baked with fresh, stringy mozzarella and crisped chicken, one step is crucial in this recipe. Because Zucchini is a moisture-filled vegetable, it's vital that you first salt and let the zucchini strips rest to extract as much moisture as possible, to prevent from having a soggy outcome. Don't worry, this doesn't mean you'll have a dry zucchini bake as a result; there is still plenty of juiciness from the fresh mozzarella and the béchamel. This is a healthy and delicious lasagna-type dinner that's sure to please anyone! Enjoy.
Cheesy Chicken Zucchini Bake
3 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise*
2 chicken breast, cut lengthwise (making 4 cutlets)
1 16 oz pack fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Oil, for frying
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large colander, add the sliced zucchini and sprinkle with about 1-2 tablespoons of salt. Mix well with your hands to distribute the salt. Let it sit in the sink for about 30-45 minutes. (This will remove excess moisture from the zucchini.)
2. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Season both sides of the chicken breast with the 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil. Cook the chicken breast on both sides until golden brown, then move to a plate to cool slightly. Roughly chop the chicken when it has cooled about 5 minutes.
3. Wipe any charred bits out of the pan, but do not wash.To make the bechamel sauce, add the 4 tablespoons of butter and the diced onion. Cook over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes until it is chunky and hard to stir. Slowly add in the milk, whisking all the while, until smooth and no lumps of flour are left. Add the minced garlic, then taste for salt. (Salt as needed). Turn the heat down to low and let it come to a slow simmer (do not boil). Whisk often and cook until sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and whisk in the chopped parsley and lemon juice.
4. Pat dry every zucchini slice front and back, to remove all excess salt and moisture. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Top with 1/3 of the chopped chicken, 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese and half of the zucchini slices. Repeat this step twice more, starting the with bechamel sauce on the zucchini slices. The top layer should be the mozzarella cheese.
5. Bake, uncovered for about 45 minutes, then another 5 minutes under the broiler until the cheese bubbles and browns slightly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy.
* If you have small zucchini, make sure you slice enough to fit all across a baking dish twice, as there will be 2 layers of zucchini.
All content is my own unless otherwise stated.