Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Chevre-Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Because we're headed east for two weeks in a few days, and I've got a lot to do before hand, like get ready, I'm trying to do as little food shopping as possible. So, looking to see what was lurking in the freezer and the fridge, I brought some leftovers together and came up with this rather spectacular dish, if I do say so meself.

Chicken breasts, the last of Kalyn's Buttermilk-Mayonnaise coleslaw dressing (thank you Kalyn!), a few of the frozen mini-muffin sized cilantro pecan pesto cups from a previous post, and local herbed chevre all made for some fine ingredients. Put this together per the instructions below, or add your own twists, saute some vegetables, add a salad and you've got a meal fit for company.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded (I'll tell you about that below)
1 8oz round Cypress Grove Herbed Chevre, or other chevre
1/3 cup Cilantro Pecan Pesto or your own pesto or storebought
1 cup finely ground almonds (I get almond flour from Trader Joe's)
3/4 cup Kalyn's Buttermilk-Mayonnaise dressing, or my version of same (scroll to the bottom of the post), or storebought ranch dressing
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano (or good parmesan)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Set your oven to 375 degrees.
To pound the chicken breasts, remove the tenders from the underside of each breast and set aside for another use. Take a large zip-lock plastic bag and cut open one of the sides. Insert a chicken breast into the bag (don't seal) and, with your handy-dandy meat mallet (smooth side), pound the breasts to a uniform 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness.
Mix the chevre and the pesto together until well blended. Place a chicken breast, cut side up, on a work surface. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper if desired then place about 2 tablespoons of the chevre mixture at the more ragged end and roll up, burrito style, tucking in the sides to keep the cheese filling in place. Set roll seamside down. (You can secure the rolls with toothpicks, but finding them after cooking is a pain, let alone removing them.) Repeat with the rest of the breasts, reserving any leftover chevre mixture for another use - like spreading on crackers, or in your lunch tacos...

Place the dressing and the almond flour in separate shallow, wide bowls. Dip a rolled chicken breast first in the dressing and then roll it carefully in the almond flour. Set seamside down in a roasting pan that has been drizzled with a small amount of olive oil. Repeat this process with the rest of the chicken rolls. See my note below.

Pour the white wine into the roasting pan around the chicken. Sprinkle the rolls with the grated cheese and the chopped cilantro. Dot the butter over the top. This will all melt together to form a great sauce when the chicken is done.

Place in the 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven and place breasts on a cutting board to rest for a few minutes. Whisk the pan liquids together to combine.

To serve, cut each breast into 4-5 slices but not all the way through. Fan each breast on a plate and top with the pan sauce.
I served this with asparagus, cut on the diagonal, sauteed in walnut oil until tender-crisp, and sliced tomatoes with slices of champagne mango, dusted lightly with finely ground black pepper and drizzled with a very small amount of walnut oil.

Note: Dipping the rolls in buttermilk dressing not only adds a delicious tang, it will help seal in moisture which is often lost when baking white-meat chicken. It's amazing how tender and juicy these are when they come out of the oven. And, using ground almonds is a low-carber's option. If you prefer, you can use flour with good results.

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