Jan 7, 2009

Easy and Elegant

I can’t believe I haven’t covered this recipe yet. It is, after all, on my top 5 list. I particularly like to make Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken for “special” company...you know when you want/need to impress certain people. Oh geez. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. Now there are people who’ve eaten at my house reading this thinking, “Wait. She never made that for me. All I got was lasagna. What gives?” Yes, I can hear the phone ringing now. Trust me, the lasagna took up much more of my time.

This is one of those dishes that looks impressive but isn’t difficult to make. This recipe comes from Food & Wine magazine. I’ve only changed it a little. Most importantly, I’ve excluded the walnut oil because I’ve never seen it anywhere, not even in a few specialty shops I’ve tried. Sometimes I just ignore that part of the recipe. Sometimes I use a few drops of sesame oil.

If you don’t like goat cheese, that’s ok...I suppose. I’ve made this a few ways to overcome that issue. #1: Maybe you don’t know if you like goat cheese or not and can’t bring yourself to commit completely. Try using half goat cheese/half cream cheese to a start. #2: Maybe you already know that you don’t like goat cheese. What’s wrong with you, by the way? (Kidding) Two things...some brands of goat cheese are stronger than others. Heck, I’ve had some that tasted like I was licking a goat. Maybe try a different brand? Or, replace the goat cheese entirely with cream cheese. It’ll still work. I wouldn’t like it as much, but I’m not the one who’s eating it.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
from Food & Wine magazine

1/4 cup walnut halves (can also use pecans)
1/4 cup goat cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Four 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons walnut oil (I either skip this or use a few drops of sesame oil—careful, it’s strong)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the walnuts on a pie plate and toast for 6 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then chop.

In a small bowl, mash the goat cheese with the lemon zest, garlic and half of the walnuts; season with salt and pepper.

Using a small knife, cut a pocket in the side of each chicken breast; keep the pocket opening as small as possible. Stuff the chicken breasts with the mixture and gently press to flatten them.

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 6 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken until cooked through. Transfer the chicken breasts to a platter and keep warm.

Add the lemon juice and stock to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the walnut oil, parsley and the remaining chopped walnuts. Transfer the chicken breasts to plates, spoon the walnut sauce on top and serve.



What you’ll need:

Prepare the cheese filling. Here, I used pecans rather than walnuts because I like to live on the edge that way.

Prep the chicken for stuffing. There are several options. I like to cut a pocket as shown below. Another option would be to cut a pocket starting at the top of the chicken and working down the entire length. There's also a cheater method of butterflying the chicken breasts. When cutting the pocket, try to keep the hole small. Insert your knife in the hole and cut into the chicken breast on either side of the hole, but not all the way to the edge of the breast.

Stuffed the chicken with the goat cheese mixture. Sometimes I like to make these ahead of time. I stop at this point, seal the chicken, place in the fridge.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown in olive oil. Use an ovenproof skillet, if possible, to cut down on dirty dishes.

Place chicken in oven to finish cooking (165 degrees F). I only needed to impress myself and my family this time.

Set chicken aside and keep warm (cover with foil) while you make the sauce.

Add lemon juice and stock to the pan and scrape up all those brown bits. They may not look like much, but those bits give great flavor. Simmer for a few minutes.

Add the parsley and whatever nut you are using. If using walnut oil, add it now too. Stir to combine everything.
Plate chicken and spoon sauce over the top.

7 comments:

  1. What sides do you like to serve with this? Goat cheese has such a strong flavor, that I'm thinking you need something mild (rice pilaf?) to counter balance? Looks great!

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  2. I usually go with roasted potatoes or lemon rice (to pick up the lemon in the chicken) and something green like a broccoli, spinach, or green bean side dish. I try to stay away from cheesy casseroles b/c of the cheese in the chicken.

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  3. Anonymous1/27/2009

    Hi, I really love your blog, especially the photos (very helpful). I'm in Lafayette and come from a line of good cooks (we're not Cajun, but guilt by association... my grandmother was from a BIG German family near Rayne/Robert's Cove...rice farmers... but mom and my grandmother cooked Cajun). I really liked your gumbo and rice and gravy recipes as this is exactly how I'm used to eating these dishes. My question to you is... my mom and grandmother are no longer living and I'm trying to get my cooking skills down. I'm lukcy enough to have my mom's Talk About Good original cook book, as well as River Road. They stapled and added family recipes into these books. My delimma is that I have a very small kitchen with limited storage space and I was wondering if you could recommend the basic pots/pans necessary to be a good Cajun cook. I was thinking of buying an old Magnalite pot off of ebay, or would you go with Cast Iron? What about just a dutch oven? If you had to have a pick of a select few prized pots/pans... what would you pick? Thanks so much. Keep up the great blog. You are quite the entertaining writer.

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  4. Thank you so much for the feedback. It helps me know what to continue doing here!

    I live in Eunice, but grew up in New Orleans and also lived in Lafayette for several years. That's where my husband is from.

    As for pots: I learned the hard way that the best type of pot or pan for most Cajun dishes is stainless steel or cast iron. So many dishes start with a roux and it is impossible to make a dark roux in a non-stick pot. So, that's a start! You may have noticed from my pictures that I tend to use my cast iron dutch oven for most of the Cajun and Creole dishes I make. I love this pot! Cast iron holds heat very well and is nice and heavy, which is good for when you have to stir a lot (roux). I also like this pot because it can be used on the stove top, in the oven, even over open fire if need be. I can make gumbo, stews, soups, smothered dishes, fried foods, pot roast, brasied dishes, etc in it. My point being that Dutch ovens are extremely versitile. The fact that mine is cast iron just puts it over the top for me! Cast iron pots get better and better over time (if you take care of them). They do have to be seasoned. Most pots come with instructions on how to do this. Or, you can sometimes find seasoned, broken-in cast iron pieces at garage sales and flea markets (why people get rid of these things, I can't understand!).

    Other than cast iron, when I'm making Cajun or Creole food I go with stainless steel (again, not a non-stick/teflon type of pot or pan). Many Cajun and Creole dishes are based on developing layers of flavor and/or deep, rich gravies and sauces. All the gunk that sticks to the bottom of your pot helps create this. The pots I use are modest, not top of the line or anything. I use Farberware Mellinneum. They could be a little heavier, but I like them. My mother in law has an old set of Magnalite. In addition to cast iron, Magnalite pots are classic pots for Cajun cooks to have. I've used her's often. Nice pots/pans. Heavy, durable, good for roux, making gravy, typical Cajun stuff. Pricey though! If you can get a good deal on Ebay or a garage sale, etc., well...I'd go for it!

    The only thing I can think of (off the top of my head) that I use non-stick surfaces for is jambalaya b/c I hate scrubbing stuck-on rice from the bottom of a pot.

    Your mother and grandmother have left you a great treasure by adding family recipes to already great cookbooks. Enjoy those gems, think of them while doing so, and pass them on down through your family if possible!

    If I haven't answered everything, don't hesitate to drop me a line!

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  5. Anonymous1/28/2009

    Thanks so much for responding with such an awesomely detailed answer to my pots question... please keep posting recipes (and jokes too)! I know I told you before but the pictures are really helpful. I can tell you love this stuff! Thanks again, Stephanie:)

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  6. Love this! I have never seen your blog. Great stuff!

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  7. Christine,
    You've never seen my blog? Girl, where've you been? Just kidding.

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments.