The King’s Chicken Pesto Sandwich

Hello, from Hershey, Pennsylvania! Land of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kisses, and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. I am currently in my first week as a visiting student at the Penn State-affiliated hospital. However, this is not my first time visiting “The Sweetest Place On Earth.” As a child, whenever we flew “back East” (as my dad always referred to his home-state) to visit my grandmother Mom-Mom, we would make the trip from Reading to Hershey to visit Hershey Park. Much of my dad’s family still lives in the area. I’m looking forward to seeing some of them while I’m in the area, as I haven’t seen them in close to 20 years!

Now you might be wondering why someone who goes to medical school in Orlando is way up in Pennsylvania. One of the things most students do during their fourth year of medical school is apply for “away electives” or externships at programs that we are thinking about applying to for residency. This provides an opportunity for us to see a program during a 2-to-4 week rotation, but also for them to get to know us, a soon-to-be applicant for the program, as well. Even though it has only been a few days, I have really enjoyed my time here. The scenery while driving in was beautiful. The hospital and medical school sit in the middle of green fields on either side with tree-covered hills behind it. Green all around. Emily was hoping I would be able to smell chocolate once I opened the car door, but that does not appear to be the case. It was a short drive from David’s as well and I didn’t have to drive alone. My classmate John is also here for a rotation in Emergency Medicine, and we were lucky enough to find a place to sublet together. It’s been nice having a familiar face here. I’ve been working with the stroke team this week and everyone I’ve met has been exceptionally nice and eager to teach, and the Penn State medical students are all very welcoming.

It’s usually a challenge to try to cook in someone else’s kitchen. I’m away from the familiarity of my own kitchen and usually lacking many of the tools that I’ve accumulated to make cooking some of my staples easier. I don’t have that one whisk or my trusty spider that I always reach for. So, for my time in Hershey, I’m going back to some much simpler recipes. This is also helpful, as it cuts down on the time I spend in the kitchen so that I can focus on my clinical rotation and still have time to get to explore Hershey more. Some of the medical students told me about a local brewery with some delicious food that I told John we need to check out. But we’re saving that for the weekend.  This week I have been making these chicken pesto sandwiches. They were really easy to throw together. I have been making one or two at a time, depending on if John is home to eat with me; some of his ED shifts are at crazy hours. I also made one the night before and had it for lunch the next day, reheating it for about 30-60 seconds, and it was still just as good. This is definitely a med school friendly meal, and easy enough for anyone to make, yet delicious enough to still impress.

The King's Chicken Pesto Sandwich
The King’s Chicken Pesto Sandwich

The King’s Chicken Pesto Sandwich

Another quick weeknight meal. The great thing about this recipe is you can dress it up any way you like. Play around with different toppings. Add some lettuce for a crisp freshness. Kick up the richness by adding a couple slices of thick-cut bacon. The possibilities are endless. You can make one sandwich if you’re dining alone, two for a dinner date, or more if you’re hosting a dinner party. The recipe below is for two sandwiches.

  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper
  • 1 large chicken breast, cut through the middle into two even cutlets
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ciabatta rolls
  • 4 tablespoons pesto (I use Kirkland’s)
  • 1-2-ounce slices of fresh mozzarella

Start by placing the red bell pepper on a baking sheet under the broiler set to high. Be mindful to check the pepper throughout your preparation, turning the pepper as the skin begins to blister and blacken, so it roasts evenly on all sides. In a frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat cutlets dry with a paper towel. If the cutlets are uneven, cover them with plastic wrap and pound them with the flat side of a meat mallet or a heavy bottom pan until the thickness is even throughout, about 1/4-inch. Salt and pepper to your liking and sprinkle cayenne pepper on both sides. Place the cutlets into the pan, cooking on both sides for about 4-5 minutes or until both sides have a good sear and the chicken is cooked through, adjusting heat as necessary. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Cut the ciabatta rolls in half and toast the cut sides under the broiler, until they begin to brown slightly. Remove the rolls and allow them to cool. The pepper should be done by now, so remove it from the oven and place in a container with a lid or a brown paper bag to steam for a little bit. The steam will help to lift the skin off the pepper for easy removal. While the pepper is steaming, spread one tablespoon on each half of the toasted ciabatta rolls. Place one chicken cutlet on each bottom half of the ciabatta. Remove the pepper from the container or bag. Pull on the stem and it should come out with seeds; discard this. Peel the skin off, using a knife or spoon for more stubborn areas. Divide the pepper into halves or thirds. Place a piece of pepper onto the top of each of the chicken cutlets and then top with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Place the sandwiches under the broiler until the cheese melts, removing just before it begins to drip down the sides. Place the top halves of the ciabatta onto the sandwiches. Serve immediately.

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