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Chicken rarebit is a dish inspired by Welsh rarebit which is kind of elaborate cheese on toast. Chicken breast fillet with mozzarella and mushroom topping is like an incredible chicken melt or like mozzarella stuffed chicken – but twice as easy to prepare.
Just when I thought a chicken breast fillet was the most boring food item on earth, I had this idea. Basically, it’s Welsh rarebit which is basically cheese on toast, with the toast replaced by a flattened, lightly fried chicken fillet.
Everyone’s all-time favourite words are in this dish: chicken, mushrooms, cheese, grill, garlic and breadcrumbs. But instead of elaborately stuffing the chicken fillet, with it never wanting to close up properly and the stuffing ALWAYS leaking out, this is a deconstructed stuffed chicken. The garlicky mushrooms and cheese mix held in place from running away by some flour and breadcrumbs is piled up on top of the chicken.
It helps if you own an oven-proof frying pan and I can never sing enough praise of cast iron skillets, which is what I used here. The first time I was fearful the cheese would burn to ashes or fuse with the pan making it a write-off, but I should have trusted cast iron – if properly seasoned, it’s a better non-stick than all the teflons in the world. The topping that dropped onto the pan – and you can’t avoid that happening – cooked into beautiful crispy, lacy bits that The Weather Man and I were fighting over.
This one recipe creates so many different possibilities: hide blanched spinach under the cheese, or naughty bits of bacon. Swap chicken for pork tenderloin or a thick fat slab of grilled aubergine for a veggie version. Spike the cheese with chilli powder instead of mustard, dab chutney or chilli jam on top, or slather everything in mayo.
And still, I promise, you’ll be going back to my original formula; you really can’t beat cheese and mushrooms. But I have to add a disclaimer: with that amount of cheese plus breadcrumbs, plus frying, it’s not the lightest of dishes, so it will probably go best with just a green salad on the side.
chicken rarebitServings: 2Time: 35 minutes
- 2 chicken breast fillets
- salt and black pepper
- 70g (2/3 cup) shredded cooking mozzarella
- 70g (2/3 cup) grated sharp cheddar
- 2 tsp corn flour
- 2 tsp breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- ½ tbsp. butter
- 100g (3 ounces) cup mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
- cornmeal, for dredging
- 1 tbsp. groundnut oil
1. Cover the chicken fillets on a chopping board with cling film and flatten with a mallet or a rolling pin. Season them with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. Stir the cheeses together in a bowl with the corn flour, breadcrumbs and mustard powder. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.
3. Heat the butter in a small frying pan until foaming. Add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme and cook until the liquid they release is absorbed back, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
4. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Dredge the chicken fillets in cornmeal, shake off the excess and add them to the pan. Cook for about 7-10 minutes on one side.
5. Turn the fillets over and pile half the mushroom mix on each one. Top with the cheese mix and press it down with a spoon.
6. Transfer the pan to a rack set in the top half of the oven and cook for 10 minutes, until the cheese is browned and crisp on top.
NOTE: if you haven’t got an oven proof frying pan, preheat a baking tray while the chicken is cooking on the hob. Cook the fillets briefly on the other side, then transfer them to the baking tray and build the topping there.