Thursday, July 15, 2010

That's It - We're Moving To France!

Good evening everyone! Welcome back to another installment of cooking adventure here at Out Of The Culinary! Tonight, it was my turn to take back the kitchen. For tonight's recipe, I decided to take on a second French inspired dish. The bar was set high, after the delicious result that was Tuesday's Coq Au Vin, but I felt that my recipe tonight could keep the pace - if not even surpass my first French foray.

My recipe tonight, stuffed chicken breasts, is a mixture of French cuisine and American ingenuity. The Americanized versions of stuffed chicken breasts are usually prepared with a cheese or cream stuffing. While this is very fast and easy to cook, it usually results in two problems. First, the cheese or cream tends to ooze out of the chicken while cooking, creating a lot of scorched cheese and lost flavor. Secondly, the flavor combination of chicken and cheese isn't exactly a revolution for your taste buds. Anything that your neighborhood Wendy's could duplicate in 3 minutes isn't really going to amaze your family or even make you feel like it was worth the time to cook.

The French version of stuffed chicken breast, however, is certainly a gift for your taste buds. The French prefer to make their stuffing out of a forcemeat combination. What this consists of is chicken meat, typically wing and drumstick, a blending of herbs such as thyme or rosemary, and another vegetable or two (onion, mushroom) to act as the 'glue'. This process requires a whole chicken - and involves wrapping each of the chicken breasts in the skin of the chicken. Needless to say, this is time consuming and very, very complicated.

Instead, the fine chefs at America's Test Kitchen have found a perfect way to blend the two - French culinary flavors with America's efficiency. The result is the version of stuffed chicken breasts that I am making tonight. This recipe isn't nearly as complicated as the first French recipe, but it does include a decent number of steps and cooking. Follow along with the blog, and you shouldn't have any trouble duplicating this for yourself.

For my side dish tonight, I'm making buttermilk mashed potatoes. While not a French recipe, it sounds delicious (and only has 3 steps!) so it should be a great pairing with the chicken breast!

The Recipe: Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

What You'll Need:

2 X Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
3 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
10 Oz. White Mushrooms
1 Small Leek, White Part Only (See directions below on preparing a leek)
2 Medium Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/2 Tsp. Thyme
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley (1/4 Tsp. Dried)
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

The Recipe: Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

What You'll Need:

2 Lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
6 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
2/3 Cup Buttermilk (Room temperature)

The easiest way to begin this recipe is to measure and prepare everything (except the garlic) beforehand. That includes chopping and preparing the leek. If you're like me, you've never really encountered a leek before. No need to worry, I've done all the necessary research and now am qualified (well...sorta) to give you some pointers on the green little veggie.

The leek, for those who don't know is a member of the onion and garlic family. The only difference it has from its cousins lies in the fact that it doesn't grow a 'bulb' like onions or garlic do. Rather, the flavorful part of the leek lies just under the dirt, in the white coloring of the plant. In the culinary world, the white portion of the leek is the most commonly used. It holds the most flavor, and this portion behaves the most like an onion when cooking. The lighter green portion is used sometimes - typically for broths or stock recipes. The darker green portion is hardly ever used, as it is tough and typically tastes like wood.

To begin preparing your leek, rinse it well under water. Next use a knife to slice off the root end. Then, make a cut vertically up the stalk, into the medium green color. Rotate the leek and make the same cut on the other side. Finally, chop horizontally, starting at the bottom and working up until you reach the green portion of the leek.

If we were using more of the leek, you would make the slice higher and chop higher as well. However, this recipe simply calls for the white portion, so that's as far as we need to go. Finish by mincing the white portion of the leek and set aside.

Once you have everything else measured and prepared, you are ready to get cooking!

Begin by slicing the fat off and butterflying your chicken breast. Tonight, I got to use my birthday present to myself, my Victorinox 8 Inch Chef's Knife ...WOW! Anytime someone tells you to 'spend money on knives, it's worth it' believe them. This chef's knife may have run $30 on it's own, but it is absolutely amazing! It sliced through the chicken effortlessly. I'm not sure how I managed to cook before I had this miracle knife, but I know that I don't want to cook without it ever again!

It slices!

It dices!

Once your breasts are butterflied, lay them between two squares of plastic wrap. Using a large tenderizer (another birthday purchase for me) smash the breasts until they are about 1/4 inch in thickness. Let me tell you, after a long and frustrating day at work - smashing the living heck out of those chicken breasts was great therapy!


Once the chicken is pulverized to your preference, trim the edges off - your goal here is to 'square up' the breast (it's really more of a rectangle...) DO NOT discard the extra pieces of chicken, you'll be using those in a minute. Don't get overzealous and trim down the breasts too small, however, you still want something to work with. The end goal is to have something that you can fairly neatly roll - once you feel that you can achieve that - stop slicing.


Place the extra pieces of chicken (that you sliced off) into your food processor and pulse for about 15 seconds, or until smooth. Empty the chopped chicken into a bowl and set aside. Resist the urge to clean out the food processor bowl - you'll need it later.

Next, place a medium frying pan on high heat and add 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil. and allow the oil to begin 'shimmering'. Add your mushrooms to the pan and cook until nice and brown. The recipe says this will take between 10 to 12 minutes, I'm not sure what I was doing differently, but my mushrooms were nice and golden brown within two minutes.

Once the mushrooms are golden, add your minced leek and another Tbsp. of vegetable oil. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the leek begins to soften, making sure to stir often. Add the garlic and the thyme and cook for about 30 seconds. Next, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice and cook until the juice is absorbed into the mushrooms or evaporated. Finally, transfer this mixture into your food processor bowl and pulse for about 20 seconds. Pour this mixture into the bowl with your chopped chicken and fold both together with a rubber spatula until they are equally blended.

Meanwhile, add your wine to the skillet - be sure to rub with a rubber spatula to get off any brown bits that have cooked onto the bottom of the pan. After a minute, pour the wine into a bowl and set aside. Wash and dry your skillet.

Next, spread your stuffing mixture onto your chicken breast squares, leaving about a 1/2 inch per side free. Once the stuffing has been spread on the breasts, cut off 3 strands of cooking twine (per breast) at roughly 12 inches long. Roll the breasts tightly, making sure to avoid squeezing out the stuffing. It may take a few attempts, but you want the chicken to overlap itself on the bottom seam. Place the seam side down on top of your cooking twine and tightly tie the twine. Be sure to trim off any extra twine that is hanging over when you're done.

If you're making the buttermilk mashed potatoes, now is a great time to place the potatoes in the pan and set on high heat.

Add 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil to your skillet and allow it to begin 'smoking'. Place the chicken breasts into the pan and cook all four sides for 2 minutes apiece. (It sounds odd, but they will actually rotate on four sides while cooking - even though they look round). Next, add your chicken broth and wine (from earlier) to the pan with the chicken and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan with a lid. The goal here is to get the center of the chicken breasts to 160 - 165 degrees. Since you have raw chicken as part of your stuffing - it is very important that you reach this temperature. This should take about 10 minutes.

Once your chicken has reached that perfect temperature - pluck the breasts from the pan and set aside. Now you can begin to make the sauce. First, whisk in your dijon mustard and return the heat to high. You want everything to simmer on high heat for around 5 minutes. After this time, remove the pan from heat and whisk in the butter, parsley and the remaining lemon juice. Pour this mixture into a serving bowl or gravy boat.

Finally, remove the twine from the chicken breasts and slice them into sections.

By now, your potatoes should be good and soft. Drain the water and use a potato masher to make everything nice and smooth. Mix your melted butter (if you want to speed up the melting process for the butter, simply set a metal bowl above a hot pot while you're cooking - it will melt in no time!) and buttermilk together. The purpose of the buttermilk being room temperature is simple - buttermilk curdles at 160 degrees - something that easily happens when you add it to the just boiled potatoes. By allow it to get to room temperature and then adding melted butter - you break down some of the chemical compounds of the buttermilk - making it less 'volatile' and much less likely to curdle. Mix your buttermilk and butter mixture in with the potatoes and fold with a rubber spatula until everything is
Resourceful isn't it? 

Smash them up well

Mixing the buttermilk and the butter 

All that is left is to dish everything up and enjoy!

The Results:

Well, after a week with two French recipes, I think we've made a decision...We're moving to France! Amazing, once again our French inspired recipe turned out simply remarkable!

The flavors all blended together extremely well - everything complimented so nicely! The chicken was juicy and tender and the sauce added a sweet - yet zesty finish to the whole dish. The bar was set pretty high after the Coq Au Vin recipe, but this stuffed chicken breast recipe did just fine. We easily have another entry into our top five recipes, that's right - 3 (3!) top five recipes in this week's blog alone!

The buttermilk mashed potatoes were simply - 'ok'. For my taste, they were a little too...'buttermilky'. Yukon gold potatoes are naturally sweeter to begin with (in comparison to russets) and the sweet buttermilk flavoring simply made them a little too sweet for me to handle. Maggie, on the other hand, found them to be quite tasty. It seems to be a matter of personal taste. I'd opt to make these same potatoes with regular milk in place of the buttermilk next time. I think that'd reduce the sweetness nicely.

All in all, it was a fantastic meal (and really, a fantastic week for recipes). The best part about this recipe is (unlike the Coq Au Vin) it's relatively simple to make. This is certainly worth your time and effort - it is one fantastic dish!

That's all we have for you tonight! We're off tomorrow and Saturday. We are planning some form of 'quick hit' post on Sunday - that should be up by Sunday evening. Be sure to stop back then to see what we're up to. Thank you all for stopping by and reading the site this week - we're proud of the three recipes we produced this week and hope that you all give at least one of them a shot. They are all delicious!

Until next time,


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