Being a fairly recent convert to meat-eating, as I’ve mentioned before, I am just now getting over my squeamishness about dealing with raw chicken. My earliest chicken-cooking endeavors were most notable for the machinations I would go through in order to avoid touching the uncooked breasts. Think large spatulas, plastic wrap, and the like… I wish I could attribute it to just a fear of salmonella, but the truth is that the thought of raw chicken, especially those white fatty bits, just completely repulsed me. I’ve been slowly conditioning myself to become accustomed to it and have gotten to the point that last week I decided to try making stuffed chicken breasts for the first time, a task that would require some serious chicken handling. One must make a long slit in the side of the breast to form a pocket, an act that most definitely requires a hands on approach, and although putting the filling into the pocket might be accomplished with the help of utensils, it is certainly easier with a little poking, prodding, and sealing from the fingertips. It was a little bit ooky, I’ll admit, but the results were SO good that I am now more than willing to add stuffed chicken breasts to my regular repertoire.
I found this particular recipe here on Dinner Tonight, the blog associated with Martha Stewart’s magazine Everyday Food . I was drawn in by the apricot/almond/goat cheese combo and probably would have been equally enticed had they just been sitting atop a green salad, but as it was, the dish was presented as a quick and easy alternative to your standard, ho-hum, everyday chicken breast. In fact, it exceeded my expectations- turns out it wasn’t just the combination of flavors in the filling that made me love this dish, but the chicken ended up perfectly cooked- crisp and crunchy on the breadcrumb and almond encrusted exterior, juicy on the interior. We made these twice in a week and even when we let them sit in the oven five minutes too long, they turned out terrific. I can’t vouch for the pesto, as I steered clear of making it after finding a caterpillar infestation on our mint plant, but the meat was moist and flavorful enough that I didn’t think it needed anything more. Served alongside a healthy helping of green beans, this was a great and filling alternative to my usual carbohydrate-based meals. Delish!
Apricot and almond stuffed chicken (serves 4)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (6 ounces each)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 ounces goat cheese
4 dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (3 tablespoons)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mint Pesto (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a slit in one side of each chicken breast to create a pocket about 4 inches long.
2. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup almonds with the goat cheese and apricots. Stuff each breast with 1/4 of the mixture. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
3. On a plate, combine breadcrumbs and remaining 1/4 cup almonds. Dip each breast into egg, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture.
4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until golden, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to oven; bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve hot with pesto on the side.