Last year, Dan and I attended a cooking class at Sur La Table. The instructor happened to be Chef Robert Fair, who I learned recently was one of the ‘hopefuls’ in the most recent Bachelorette show. Not that this tidbit is really of any significance, but I thought it was funny because my reaction upon reading that was — “Why am I not suprised?” Hah. However, what is significant is that this class sealed our pact with the cooking god and it began our journey to obsession.
So back to the class. It was on cooking techniques: frying, searing, sauteeing, and grilling. One of the things we made was stuffed chicken breasts. Chef Robert reiterated — almost painfully as he remembered stuffed wannabees that were really just chicken meat used as a ‘wrap’ — the right way to make stuffed chicken breasts using careful artful strokes to tear into the middle of the width of the breast to create the receptacle for your tasty filling. Yes, it requires patience or you’ll have stuffing bursting out.
I used spicy Italian sausage with sweet onion, rosemary and a little honey. Sear lightly then bake to perfection. It’s easy and it looks impressive for moderate hands-on work:
To make sure these pockets of meat don’t overflow, I just used pieces of toothpick (new and clean ones please!) to kind of staple or sew open ends together.After searing and baking…hello super plump chicken!
Gosh darn, it was really good. Spicy sweet…mmm. And yes, you can pick whatever kind of sausage flavor/blend you like! That’s the fun part. :)
Here’s the recipe for you try:
• 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
• 1/2 cup spicy Italian sausage (if you buy it skinned,
• 1 6-inch sprigs of rosemary (half will be finely chopped, and the rest will be placed on top of chicken before baking)
• 1 tbsp honey
• 1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
• 2 chicken breasts
• 1 tbsp olive oil
Other things you need: paring knife, a small sandwich bag for piping the stuffing, wooden toothpicks, aluminum foil
1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan in medium heat. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF with the rack in the middle.
2. Create a slit/pocket through each chicken breast (along its width/short side) using a paring knife. It’s very easy to accidentally poke the meat in the wrong place.
3. Mix the chopped onion, Italian sausage, honey, finely chopped leaves of half a sprig of rosemary, and ground pepper. If you’re not squeamish with holding ground meat, dig in with your bare hands and blend them all together.
4. Put the sausage mixture into the small sandwich bag and cut a 1″-diameter hole in one corner. Pipe the content into your chicken pocket little by little. Tip: Pipe a little then spread it to the back, as if you’re pushing the content of a toothpaste tube to one side.
Alternative: If you have tiny fingers like I do and you can push stuff the chicken breast with your own hands, by all means do so. It’s easier based on my experience.
Use Toothpicks to ‘seal’ the edges or any holes you accidentally made. The filling will tend to ooze out and I’m warning you know if you like your dishes to look ‘clean’.
5. Place the chicken breasts on the well-heated oiled pan. Cook 3 minutes on each side.
6. Transfer the chicken breasts into an oven safe dish, sprinkle them with the remaining rosemary (stem removed) and drizzle with the olive oil you used in the pan.
7. Bake the chicken in the oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on how thick the chicken breasts are and how stuffed you made it. Ours took 15 minutes because they were full to the ‘brim’.
8. Take it out and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
9. MMmmm…enjoy with pasta, rice or salad.