Healthy Baked Chicken and Asparagus
Asparagus is one of the most healthy and delicious vegetables, but is in season for a short time.
A symbol of spring, it has been popular throughout history. It was cultivated in Egypt, and prized by the Romans.
Once offered to the gods, and affordable only by the wealthy members of society, there are now several types readily available in supermarkets in spring.
Green and purple asparagus are more common than the mild-flavored white asparagus, except in some European countries.
In this recipe it is recommended to use younger stalks without peeling - preserving more flavor, nutrients and fiber.
Nutrition - raw asparagus, 100g
Vitamin / Mineral
% Daily Value
Asparagus is packed with vitamins, and is very low in calories. In fact, more calories are burnt in digesting asparagus than are gained by eating it!
The spears are excellent sources of potassium, and anti-oxidant vitamins A, C, and E.
It contains a large amount of vitamin K (good for bone and brain health), plus good amounts of folate, vitamin B6, iron, copper, as well as being packed with fiber.
Fresh asparagus is much healthier (and tastier) than when it is preserved.
Choosing asparagus spears
- The spears loses freshness and taste soon after they are picked.
- Choose firm, smooth, vibrant green spears, where the tips are tight and firm.
- Avoid shriveled spears, or those where the base of the stalk is dry and woody, or with open / slimy tips.
- After purchasing, store spears in a sealed plastic tub or plastic bag in the fridge, and use quickly.
Home grown ingredients
Asparagus does take a while to grow - you can harvest spears 1 year after planting a crown or a a couple of years after growing asparagus from seed.
Once you have eaten spears cooked directly after being picked, you may find it difficult to return to the supermarket varieties.
Fresh thyme can be used in Italian and French cooking, and has a much stronger taste than dried thyme. It's very easy to grow, even inside a sunny kitchen!
Healthy baked chicken, prosciutto and asparagus
This easy, light, and delicious casserole is best made with fresh green asparagus.
Paired with the very low-calorie white radish (daikon), onions, thyme, and chicken wrapped with cured ham or prosciutto, this is a healthy, low-fat, and very tasty dinner.
You can serve this with fresh crusty bread, rice or another type of grain for a heartier meal.
Abbreviations and conversions
L = litre = 32 fluid ounces (US)
When asparagus is not in season, broccoli (including stems), fresh beans or even snow peas can be used.
You can add any other vegetables you enjoy - shredded cabbage, carrots, turnips or swedes work well.
Other fresh Italian or French herbs also work well for a different flavor. Try oregano, majoram, parsley, rosemary and bay leaves.
Garlic and finely sliced red chilli peppers can work well.
English bacon can be used in place of cured ham or prosciutto. Or you can skip the pork altogether.
- 4 chicken breasts
- 12 slices cured ham or prosciutto
- 2 bunches asparagus
- 4 medium onions
- 1 white long radish (daikon)
- handful fresh thyme
- parsley, dried or chopped fresh
- black pepper to taste
- 1 L chicken stock
Summary of instructions
- Snap the asparagus spears into pieces, cut the onions and vegetables and spread over the bottom of a oven-safe pan with a lid.
- Cut the chicken breasts into large pieces, place a sprig of thyme and wrap with prosciutto ham. Place over the vegetables.
- Season with pepper, parsley and a little olive oil.
- Add stock, cover the pan and bake in a medium to hot oven for 45 minutes.
1. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces about ¼ or ½ the size of your palm. You don't want the pieces to be too thick, or they will take longer to cook and infuse less of the stock.
2. Lay a sprig of thyme in the middle of each piece of chicken.
3. Wrap each chicken breast piece in a thin slice of cured ham or prosciutto. The salt in the cured ham means you do not need to add extra salt to the dish.
4. Cut the onions into about 8 pieces - cut an onion in half, the each half into quarters. Slice the radish thinly. If the radish is very large, consider cutting it in half or quarters along its length before slicing.
Other vegetables: Broccoli can be left in small florets, and beans can be cut to bite-sized lengths once they have been topped and tailed. Roughly chop cabbage into pieces or short slices.
5. Bend each asparagus spear to snap off and discard the woody base of the stalk. Snap the rest of the stalk in pieces about the length of your thumb.
6. Layer the onions, radish slices and broken asparagus spears in the bottom of a glass or metal casserole dish or dutch oven.
Important: The casserole or pan needs to have a lid - the meat will dry out and the stock will boil away if it is not covered while cooking.
7. If you didn't put a thyme stalk in each of the chicken pieces, sprinkle the thyme over the vegetables, then evenly spread the wrapped chicken pieces over the thyme.
8. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste, fresh chopped or dried parsley, and a little olive oil.
9. Pour the stock over the wrapped chicken pieces. The stock should mostly cover the vegetables, just starting to cover the meat. As it cooks, the vegetables will break down, and the meat will end up in the stock.
For a soupier dish, simply add more stock.
10. Place a lid on the casserole dish, and place into a medium to hot oven (180°C or 350°F), and bake for about 45 minutes. The vegetables should be slightly crunchy.
11. Spoon into bowls and serve with fresh bread and a green salad. Enjoy!
Wrapped chicken with rice - add a cup of rice after the vegetables are in the pan, and double the amount of stock. The rice will soak up the stock as the dish cooks.
Creamy asparagus and chicken - you can do a number of ways:
- Add a cup of cream after it has finished cooking
- Use a can of cream of asparagus soup as the stock
- Use a can of cream of chicken soup as the stock
If you are using a concentrated can of 'cream' soup, you may need to add water or stock to make the liquid thin enough and reach the meat in the pan.
A dusting of parmesan cheese over the served meal adds to the creaminess and depth of flavors.
Spanish flavors - wrap the chicken pieces with thin slices of chorizo salami, or chop a thicker chorizo sausage up and layer with the chicken. Use fennel instead of daikon radish, and tarragon and saffron instead of parsley. For a hotter dish, add cayenne pepper or a chopped chili. This pairs splendidly with rice.
What's your favorite asparagus recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
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