By Beverly Barbour
Stuffings transform chicken breasts
Take the ho-hum out of chicken breasts with an interesting stuffing and you have a dinner fit for company--plus a chicken stretcher. Two pluses for all who have a love affair with white meat.
One of the reasons that some profess not to like white meat is that it is drier than dark meat. Actually I think that with today's commercially raised chickens most people would have a hard time telling black from white if their eyes were closed and they had to depend on taste buds alone. If the breast is filled with a moist stuffing it does help to keep the breast more moist and hence more acceptable to the dyed in the wool (or feathers) folks who look kindly only upon the dark side of the bird.
Quick-Quick Stuffed Chicken Breasts
These gorgeous brown bundles are quick, easy, and not expensive though they seem a bit fancy. If you have leftover ham in your freezer this would be a worthy dish to consider. Basically it is sauteed chicken breasts which have been stuffed with both cheese and ham and served with a simple sauce. Makes 4 servings.
Breasts and Stuffing:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 pound small mushrooms, quartered
Breasts and Stuffing: If tenders are attached to undersides of breast halves, remove white tendons from tenders with a sharp knife. One at a time butterfly breast halves. Lay each breast half, skinned side up, lengthwise. Holding a sharp knife parallel to work surface, begin on a long side and cut breast almost in half and then open it like a book. Cover opened breast halves with a piece of plastic wrap and pound each to 1/2-inch thickness with a rolling pin or small cast-iron frying pan. Remove plastic wrap and cover each opened breast half with 1 slice of ham and 1 slice of cheese, tucking in protruding ends. Brush edge of chicken with some egg, and then fold each breast in half to enclose ham and cheese. Pat chicken dry and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in heavy skillet until butter foam subsides. While butter is heating, again brush egg onto seam of each breast and then dredge breasts in flour, shaking off excess. Saute chicken, turning over once, until golden and cooked through. Transfer to plate and keep warm covered with foil.
Sauce: Add remaining tablespoon butter to skillet, then saute mushrooms and shallot, stirring 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze skillet by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until wine is reduced by about half. Add pieces of tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half. Stir in any chicken juices on plate and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions
You can stuff the chicken breasts and refrigerate up to one day ahead. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before cooking. At this season you may be able to get spring onions, the kind that looks like over-sized scallions but with a small bulb on the end. They are picked before full maturity to make space for their brothers to grow larger. Leeks could also be used. Makes 6 servings.
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; cook slowly, stirring frequently. You want to caramelize the onions, not to brown them; they should turn golden. Cool slightly. In a bowl combine onions with 1/4 teaspoon salt, cheese, parsley, milk and thyme, stirring with a fork. While this is going on, cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each chicken breast half to create a pocket. Stuff 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture into each pocket. Sprinkle chicken evenly with remaining salt. Return pan to medium high heat and coat with cooking spray or butter. Arrange chicken in pan; saute; about 5 minutes; turn chicken over. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes. Remove breasts from pan and keep warm. Add wine to pan and bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until reduced by half, add broth and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup. Serve sauce over the chicken.
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Italian Sausage
Bread crumbs are also in the mix and if you have any sourdough bread available use it for an even more intriguing flavor. You actually can use any kind of sausage meat that you like. Smoked sausage is good. You can stuff and cook these in half an hour. Makes 4 servings.
4 ounces sausage
If using link sausage remove casing and crumble sausage. Heat skillet and add sausage, onion and celery; saute until sausage is browned and onion is golden. Add wine to pan and cook 1 minute or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Rub each side of bread with cut sides of garlic; discard garlic. Coarsely crumble bread and add to sausage. Stir in parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Let stand 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed; toss to combine. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness. Place half of stuffing on one side of each chicken breast half, leaving a 1-inch border around sides. Fold remaining half of each breast over stuffing and secure with wooden picks. Sprinkle chicken with remaining salt. Heat a large skillet and coat with cooking spray, olive oil or butter. Add stuffed chicken breast halves to pan, cook 3 minutes on each side. Add chicken broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove picks, slice breasts in half and serve immediately.
Isn't it fun to turn the ordinary into the extra-ordinary?