Thursday, January 6, 2011

American Inspiration, French Technique, Spanish Flavor!

Good evening everyone! Tonight's menu includes a return to stuffed chicken breasts. You may recall, I've done one other form of stuffed chicken breast before on the blog. That recipe was drawn from classic French cuisine and had a delightful combination of leek, mushrooms and forcemeat (I.E. extra chicken) pan fried and blended within a tightly wrapped chicken breast. Tonight, I'm keeping our feet (and stomachs) on home soil and creating the American version of stuffed chicken breast. Much like the American version of anything - this stuffed chicken breast contains cheese.

Cheese stuffed chicken breasts are something of a culinary booby trap. They pose two immediate issues. First, the cheese and other fillings tend to ooze out of the chicken breast while cooking - causing a lot of smoke in the pan and very little stuffing in the chicken. Secondly, cheese stuffing tends to have a very bland or generic flavor that doesn't really make all the work worth the effort.

The second issue is the easiest to fix. Change the type of cheese. For this recipe, I'm using a smoked gouda cheese, which has a deeper, more nutty flavor than standard American cheddar or even mozzarella cheese. With this stuffing, I'm also adding pimientos (more on them later) and scallions - just to spice things up a little bit and help solve that second problem easily.

The issue of leaky stuffing, however, is a more complicated issue. The original version of this recipe calls for the breast to be butterflied, filled with the stuffing and simply folded over (like a book) and cooked. I was hesitant to follow these directions, because I could foresee the chicken hitting the skillet and then, during the flip, tossing all of the gooey ingredients into said skillet. To remedy this, I considered two methods of butterflying and wrapping that would contain the stuffing. Option one was to cut a pouch into the side of the chicken breast. Similar to butterflying - but without cutting all the way down the edges. This way, you'd create a pocket to fill with stuffing, greatly lowering the chance the innards would spill out into the pan. While this would reduce spillage, it wouldn't stop spillage. So, I kept planning. 

The option I settled on was the same option I used in my first foray into stuffed chicken breasts. In that first recipe, I butterflied the chicken breast, then spread the filling on the breast, carefully rolled the breast into a tight wrap and used cooking twine to secure the breast in the tight roll. This kept the stuffing contained and allowed for easy cooking and maneuvering in the pan. With a cooking option set - I was ready to get cooking!

The Recipe: Chicken Breasts With Pimiento Cheese
Original Recipe Found On:

What You'll Need:

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (Trimmed of tenders and fat)
1/2 Cup Shredded Gouda Cheese (Smoked preferred)
1 Tablespoon Sliced Pimientos*
2 Tablespoons Chopped Scallions
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

* Pimientos are red, tomato sized members of the pepper family. Also known as the cherry pepper, these little guys pack a little bit of spice, but are not as strong as a normal red bell pepper. The flavoring between a red bell pepper and a pimiento are so close, however, that you can use a red bell pepper in place of a pimiento in this recipe.

(Side note: We had camera issues *Dead battery* so all but the final 3 photos are taken via my iPhone. Sorry in advance for slightly lower quality pictures tonight)

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the scallions, pimiento, gouda and paprika. Turn until everything is well blended. Set aside.

Next, begin butterflying your chicken breast. (If you're unsure how to butterfly a chicken breast there is a great source HERE) Next, lay the butterflied chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat tenderizer (or heavy skillet) beat the living daylights pound the chicken breast until it reaches about 1/4 inch of thickness. Finally, using a sharp knife, trim the chicken breast until you've 'squared' it up (like the picture below)

Next, take a small portion of the pimiento/gouda/scallion stuffing and place it evenly across the surface of the flattened breast. Be sure to leave about 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch of space around all the edges, the allow for the mixture to spread when rolling. Add additional gouda (you should have extra if you shredded the cheese yourself) to the spots that seem bare.

It sure is colorful! 

Before you roll the breast, cut three pieces of cooking twine in 3 to 4 inch sections. Have them next to the cutting board or plate that you're going to be rolling the breasts on.

Grab one end of the breast and roll it tightly (making sure to keep the stuffing on the breast) until you've made a nice, tight wrap. If the roll seems too loose or floppy, unroll and wrap the breast again. Using the cooking twine, tie the roll on each end and in the middle. Be sure to tie the twine nice and tight. Repeat the process on the second breast.

Chicken rolls

In a oven safe skillet, add the olive oil and heat on medium high until the oil is shimmering. Place the chicken breast rolls into the skillet and cook 2 minutes per side (with a roll, you'll have four 'sides') or until all the surfaces are golden brown.

Once browned, place the skillet into the oven and cook at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the center of the breast is 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Remove the twine, slice the rolls and serve!

The Results:

For being an Americanized dish - the final result tasted decidedly Spanish! The scallion and pimiento combined for a nice, almost salsa like flavor, which was neutralized by the nutty undertones of the gouda. All three melted beautifully into the center of the chicken (which was deliciously moist and flavorful on its own!) In the end, I'm glad that I used the cooking method I did. While it did take a little longer to prepare (about 20 minutes of prep time) it was worth it in the end. I lost absolutely NONE of the stuffing, and the wraps were super simple to turn and maneuver in the skillet.

This was a good week for recipes - my tilapia turned out tremendously, Maggie's steak with pan sauce was delicious and the stuffed chicken with pimiento cheese was extremely satisfying. All three of those recipes could easily earn their way into our next cookbook. If you don't want to wait for that to happen, you could always buy the Out Of The Culinary Cookbook - 2010's Best Recipes From The Blog - and have delicious recipes available to you 24 hours a day. Recipes such as the original stuffed chicken breast (which, in my opinion, was slightly better than tonight's version - not by much - but still a little better) can be found in the cookbook. Buy your copy by going to the Blurb Bookstore or by clicking the link on the right hand side of the blog. Makes a great gift!

That's all we have for you this week. Maggie and I have had a lot of fun getting 2011 started off right - here's hoping you've enjoyed cooking right along with us. We're back on Monday with another rendition of Around The Culinary World - I've already got a few very interesting news stories lined up for that feature. We'll see you back here on Monday night! Enjoy your weekend everyone!


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