Date Night: Cherry Pecan Stuffed Chicken Breasts for Two

Monday, February 14, 2011

This recipe was born out of one of those I'm So Sick Of Chicken moments, but two naked breasts were staring at me from the fridge (chicken breasts sickos!!). I didn't do the market run yet so had to use what I had on hand. Sometimes, those are the best kind of recipes! This included a stuffing began with a quick saute of onions, garlic, and celery that was simply flavored with salt and pepper, then to that mixture was added dried cherries, white bread (I'm talking simple Wonder toast style!), thyme, and blue cheese. Rolled up into the chicken, tied with string and then baked off for 35 minutes and served! You can use any stuffing combination you like: if you don't have blue cheese or don't prefer it, use goat cheese or even feta. Have cranberries but not cherries? Use those! Add rosemary and or instead of the thyme. And you could make this with walnuts or even hazelnuts as well.

Cherry Pecan Stuffed Chicken Breasts
2 large chicken breasts, washed and trimmed
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped small
3/4 celery stalk, ends trimmed and chopped very small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, leaves picked off the stems OR 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 slice white toast bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/4" cubes
2 Tbsp dried cherries (or cranberries, apricots, other dried fruits)
2 Tbsp pecans, chopped
1 Tbsp crumbled mild bleu cheese (recommend: Point Reyes, Danish Bleu, Gorgonzola)
kitchen string or twine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take the chicken and remove the tenderloins, save for later use. Using a mallet, smash the chicken until 1/4" thick (or as close to that as you can get). The idea here is to get the chicken into one even layer of thickness, or as close to that as possible so the chicken can be stuffed and rolled easily and cook evenly. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a saute pan. Cook the onions and celery until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Remove from heat and transfer into a mixing bowl, including any additional oil left over. Add the thyme, bread, cherries, and pecans and another drizzle of oil to help moisten the bread. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the bleu cheese if using and set aside.

To stuff your chicken, place half of the cherry-pecan mixture in the lower 1/3 of one chicken piece. Then fold the end of that chicken piece over the stuffing, and keep rolling until you reach the other side of the chicken piece. Try to keep the stuffing inside, and don't roll too tightly so the stuffing comes out of the sides; the string will help keep it all inside shortly. Repeat with the second piece of chicken. Then using the kitchen string, cut 3 pieces large enough to go around the chicken. Slide a piece under the chicken and position it directly in the middle at the thickest part. Tie the string into a knot. Then using the other two string pieces, slide it on either side of this center string, and tie it to secure it. Then cut a slightly longer piece of string, then slide that one under the chicken but perpendicular to these three pieces, then bring up and tight to secure in the middle right above your first string in the middle. You should have a sort of "package" of stuffed chicken. Repeat this exactly with the second piece of chicken. Cut off the excess string but cutting near to the knot and discard those pieces. This can be done up to a full day in advance, tightly wrapped with plastic wrap and refrigerated.

Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil and place your stuffed chickens on top. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Let stand 3 minutes before slicing so juices can redistribute. To serve, simply cut the strings and remove from chicken, discard. Serve as whole or cut into medallions.

I served this with french fries seasoned with salt, pepper, and truffle oil.

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