Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stuffed Chicken Breast

I picked up a whole natural chicken for .99c lb yesterday. It was hard not to make the effort to pop into Whole Foods for a deal like that.

There's the good look'n whole chicken in the pic to the left. It was a mere $3.40 for 3.5 lbs. And there's enough meat on that bird to last me for quite a few meals.

Last night I decided to put a bit more effort into my evening meal and make something that was a favorite for corporate lunches when I was catering: Stuffed Chicken Breast.

Preparing this dish brought to mind the numerous references to boning a duck made in the movie Julie Julia. Julie, the young blogger, who is cooking her way through Child's, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" is determined to bone a duck just as Julia Child demonstrates in her book and on an old episode of her highly successful TV show The French Chef.

It also bought back memories of my catering days when a dish I'd created called Duck Roulade, which required boning a duck, was such a success that the company I worked for was hired to cater a kosher wedding for four hundred. And duck roulade was to be the main dish.

Tucked away in a kosher kitchen with my two kitchen hands, I spent several days boning my share of duck for four hundred. By the end of the week, with hands swollen and wrinkled and reeking of duck, I cursed the day I came up with Duck Roulade!

Stuffed chicken breast for one or two or several is much easier, obviously. To the left is a pic of the breast coming away as I sliced it off the breast bone. I used a very sharp boning knife to do this.

Never try this with a blunt knife; you're sure to cut yourself in the process.

Slice the breast off the breast bone, cutting it away from the bird at the lower leg joint. You may either remove the wing or leave it on. I leave on the lower part of the wing because it presents well, and the meat is succulent.

Here's the breast removed with skin still intact, which you want because the stuffing will go under the skin before the breast is baked.

Stuffing the Breast
1) Onto a plate grate one zucchini or squash (as pictured in the skillet from yesterday's post).
2) Add your choice of grated cheese. I used Asiago in equal portion to the amount of grated zucchini.
3) I also added some chopped fresh tarragon but you could use basil, sage, oregano, parsley, or you can leave out the herb.
4) Mix the stuffing ingredients together. I don't find that you need egg to bind the stuffing because when the cheese melts it binds the zucchini.
4) Now loosen the skin from the breast on the wing-bone side. Poke a couple fingers under the skin and create a pocket. Gently shove the stuffing into the pocket.

5) To the left is a pic of the breast stuffed. The breast tip is curled under to create a neat little round.
6) Place the breast on a baking tray and either drizzle with oil or dot with butter. Salt and pepper the top and pour a little white wine into the bottom of the baking dish.
7) Bake in a pre-heated, 350-degree oven for about 45 mins.

To Serve: Below is the cooked breast. You can serve each breast in a bowl with pan juices -- as in the photo -- with a sprig of tarragon or parsley to the side, or you can serve it on a plate. A side of buttery mashed potato is a great accompaniment, as is buttered rice.

I made myself a cucumber and black olive salad to go with the breast to the left. I sliced half a cucumber and doused it liberally with rice wine vinegar, and then I added black, kalamata olives.

The crisp texture of the cucumber, the slight oiliness of the olives, and the palate-cleansing vinegar were great in combination with the juicy chicken and melted cheese stuffing.

Good luck boning your chicken breast; it really is worth the effort.

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