French-Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts


This meal was so fantastic, I wanted to share it with you immediately after eating.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it the rest of the evening after eating, and I wished it were on the menu for the following evening as well.  All signs of a great dish, I tell you.  It is definitely a meal that is nice enough to serve to guests, but I loved it so much I’m sure we’ll enjoy it on plenty of regular weeknights as well.  This may seem a bit complicated but I assure you, it’s easier than it may seem and definitely worth any extra effort it does require.

The chicken breasts are filled with a mixture of mushrooms, leeks and fresh herbs as well as very finely processed chicken tenderloins which help keep the filling cohesive, sturdy and moist.  The dish is finished off with an unbelievable pan sauce that is full of flavor.  Please, please don’t skip the sauce – it is what takes this meal from good to great.

Side note – Today’s giveaway is one of my most used and most loved kitchen items, a mechanical pastry bag from Williams Sonoma.  I actually just purchased a new one because after four years, I finally wore out my old one with so much use!  See the Facebook page to enter.  Details will be posted before 8 am.

French-Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8 oz. each)
3 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
1 small leek, white part halved lengthwise and chopped (about 1 cup)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
½ cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, divided
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions:
If your chicken breasts have the tenderloin attached, remove the tenderloins and set aside.  Using a sharp knife, butterfly each chicken breast horizontally, almost all the way through but not quite, leaving the two halves attached like the pages of a book.  Open up the butterflied breasts and lay them out flat.  Place each piece of chicken, laid out flat, in a large zipper-lock bag one at a time.  Pound the chicken pieces to ¼-inch thickness.  Trim about 1½ inch from the long side of the cutlets, to remove about 1½ to 2 ounces per piece of chicken.  (Use the reserved tenderloins in place of or in addition to the trimmings to equal about ½ cup total reserved chicken pieces.)  Process the trimmings in a food processor until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Transfer the puree to a medium bowl.  Do not wash out the bowl of the food processor.

To make the stuffing, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until all moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 8-11 minutes.  Add an additional tablespoon of oil as well as the leek; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 2-4 minutes.  Mix in the garlic and thyme and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add 1½ teaspoons of the lemon juice and cook until the moisture has evaporated, about 30 seconds.   Transfer the mixture to the bowl of the food processor.  Return the pan to the heat; add the wine and scrape the pan to loosen browned bits.  Transfer the wine mixture to a small bowl and set aside.  Turn off the heat on the pan.

Pulse the mushroom mixture in the food processor until roughly chopped, about five 1-second pulses.  Transfer the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the pureed chicken.  Mix in half of the parsley, and the salt and pepper.  Use a spatula to fold together the stuffing ingredients until well combined.

With the chicken breasts laid out flat, spread a quarter of the filling mixture over each of the breasts, leaving a clear edge around the perimeter.  Roll up each breast as tightly as possible without squeezing out the filling and place seam-side down.  Tie evenly with 3 pieces of twine around each chicken breast.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add the chicken bundles and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Add the broth and reserved wine mixture to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 160˚ F, about 12-18 minutes.  Transfer to a plate or cutting board and tent loosely with foil.

While the chicken is resting, whisk the mustard into the cooking liquid.  Bring the heat to a high simmer, scraping the pan bottom to loosen browned bits.  Simmer until reduced to ½ cup, about 7-10 minutes.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter, remaining parsley and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the pieces of twine, slice the chicken pieces on a slight diagonal, and serve with sauce spooned over the top.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2008

Greek Chicken Salad


So the big feasting holiday has come and gone.  I hope everyone had a wonderful time with friends and loved ones, and enjoyed great food!  Our Thanksgiving was a blast and everything went very well.  Being together with so many family members makes me so grateful for all the blessings in our life.  Of course, in the wake of the holiday I find myself craving lighter, healthier foods.  I created this Greek chicken salad recently and was thrilled with the result.  It is light and healthy, yet filling, and combines the flavors of some of my very favorite foods like chicken gyros and cherry tomato salad.  The addition of olives and a sprinkle of feta on top give a nice salty counterbalance to the cool, creamy tzatziki.  Served on homemade wheat pita, this makes an awesome lunch or dinner.  So there you go – I thought I had better share at least one healthy meal before I start in on all the holiday baking 🙂

Greek Chicken Salad
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Yield: about 4 servings
Ingredients:
1½ cups cooked chicken, coarsely chopped or shredded
½ cup cucumber, diced
¾ cup tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp. sliced black olives (or Kalamata olives)
1 cup tzatziki sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pita, for serving
Crumbled feta cheese

Directions:
Combine the chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, olives and tzatziki sauce in a medium bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve as desired over pita bread, topped with crumbled feta cheese.

*Note: Readers frequently ask if they can use Greek yogurt rather than buying plain yogurt and straining it.  You absolutely can do that, but I prefer to strain my own yogurt because it is simply much cheaper than buying an equal amount of Greek yogurt.

Source: Annie original

Rigatoni di Gregorio


Sometimes I’m a little hesitant to try recipes that are knock-offs of popular restaurant dishes.  I suppose I just don’t expect them to live up the the restaurant version.  Of course, the more of a foodie I become, the less I eat at the various chains that inspire these knock-offs in the first place.  This particular dish is based off of one by the same name at Maggiano’s, more commonly known as Rigatoni D.  We’ve been to Maggiano’s a few times and I may have even ordered this once, but I didn’t remember it that well so I don’t have much case for comparison.  That’s fine though, this can just stand alone as a great pasta dish.  It has grilled chicken, mushrooms and a light wine cream sauce (light in taste and texture, not calories – sorry!)  This is a lovely meal and, bonus!  Another use for that bottle of Marsala wine in the fridge besides chicken Marsala.  Ben particularly enjoyed this dinner.  I believe his exact words were, “Hey, cooking lady!  Outstanding.”  I guess we’ll be having it again 🙂

Rigatoni di Gregorio
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Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients:
8 oz. rigatoni
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup chopped yellow onion
4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. dry white wine
¼ cup Marsala wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
2 tsp. minced fresh basil
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. butter

Directions:
Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  If necessary, turn down the heat to medium-low so the outside doesn’t brown too quickly.  Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.  When cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan with the heat on medium-high.  Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook until most of the liquid has been released and the onions are softened, about 5 minutes more.  Mix in the garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the wines, scraping with a spoon to deglaze the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Whisk in the chicken broth.  Return Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half.  Stir in the cream and cook until heated through.  Add in the herbs, Parmesan and butter; mix until well blended and the butter is completely melted.

Add the cooked rigatoni to the pan and toss with the sauce.  Serve immediately with additional grated Parmesan as desired.

Source: adapted from Pennies on a Platter, originally from RecipeLink

Orange Chicken

If you’re looking for a healthy meal, keep on looking.  But if you want to see one of my very favorite dinners, look no further.  Since this is essentially fried chicken in a sticky, sweet sauce over a bed of refined carbs, I only make this a couple of times a year.  But I enjoy it immensely every.single.time.  (I also guard the leftovers fiercely.)  Actually, I had only every tried orange chicken making this version at home.  This is supposed to be a knock-off version of a popular take-out meal.  When I finally got around to trying the “original”, I was sorely disappointed.  It doesn’t even compare.  So if you happen to like that take-out dish, then I think you will really enjoy this.  I particularly love how the cayenne pepper provides slight spicy counterbalance to the sweetness.  Can’t wait for the next six months to pass so I can justify eating this again 🙂

Orange Chicken
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Ingredients:
For the marinade and sauce:
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1½ lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut or canola oil (I like a combination)

Directions:
To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well.  Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag.  Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well.  Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer.  Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat.  Bring to a simmer.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce.  Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.

To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy.  In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend.  Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels.  Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat.  Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F.  Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking.  Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces.  Serve over rice, if desired.

Source: Joelen’s Culinary Adventures, originally from Cooking at Home With America’s Test Kitchen

Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots


Lately I have been torn on the topic of Sunday dinner.  Normally I tend to take advantage of the opportunity to make more involved meals that wouldn’t be suitable for a weeknight, but for the past month I have only had one day off each week – Sunday.  Which means when Sunday finally rolled around, I would be too busy taking care of things around the house and just generally so exhausted that high maintenance meals were not in the cards.  It turns out though, this meal is a perfect compromise.  It requires literally less than 10 minutes of prep time but the end result is a delicious roast chicken topped with crisp caramelized shallots.  Paired with some mashed potatoes, this is total comfort food with minimal effort.

The simplicity of this recipe is great, and I think it would lend itself well to variations.  I did think it was a tad on the vinegar-y side for me, so next time I may sub part of the vinegar with lemon juice, or just use a less harsh vinegar such as white wine vinegar.  But there most definitely will be a next time because when a recipe is this quick and this tasty, it’s too good to pass up.

Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots
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Ingredients:
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
4 large shallots, peeled and minced
8 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken (I used thighs)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Minced fresh parsley

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  In a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer, combine the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce and shallots; whisk to combine.  Toss the chicken in the mixture, coating with shallots.   Season with salt and pepper.  Place the chicken pieces in the pan so they are skin-side up.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the chicken pieces begin to brown on top.  Turn the pieces of chicken over and spoon some of the juices and shallots over the top.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the shallots are caramelized.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with fresh parsley.

Source: adapted from The French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann, via David Lebovitz

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas


This is an old favorite recipe that deserved a little updating, mainly in the picture department.  I tend to find chicken quesadillas pretty irresistible and I think everyone should be able to make a good version at home.  This recipe is my favorite because it is simple and can be easily adapted to suit your tastes or the ingredients you have on hand.  Though I tend to keep mine on the simple side with just grilled chicken, onions, tomatoes and cheese, you can add beans, corn, peppers, cilantro, and the list goes on.  The wet rub for the chicken adds a lot of flavor and takes next to no time to prepare, which is perfect after a long work day.  I recently started using corn tortillas instead of flour for my quesadillas and find them to be much sturdier and able to hold all the fillings.  I love being able to make this restaurant favorite at home!

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas
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Ingredients:
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
Half a yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
Corn tortillas (6-7 inches)
Cooking spray
Shredded cheese (pepper jack, cheddar, etc.)

Directions:
Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat.  Combine the chili powder, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, salt, cumin and red pepper flakes in a pie plate; whisk to combine.  Add the chicken breast halves and turn to coat.  Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and juices run clear.  Remove from the heat and shred the chicken into small pieces.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.

Combine the shredded chicken, cooked onion, and diced tomatoes in a mixing bowl; toss to combine.  Lightly brush or spray one side of a tortilla with vegetable oil; flip over on a work surface so the oiled side is facing down.  Place about a quarter of the chicken mixture onto one side of the tortilla.  Top with shredded cheese.  Fold over the tortilla to sandwich the filling inside.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling mixture.

Cook the assembled quesadillas over medium-high heat in a lightly oiled grill pan or skillet until browned on the outside and warmed through with the cheese melted on the inside.  Slice into wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa as desired.

Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Chicken and Artichokes in a White Wine Sauce


There are lots of reasons to like this dinner.  For one, it is pretty healthy, providing both lean protein and vegetables in one low fat dish.  Also, it uses ingredients that you are likely have on hand most of the time so as long as you have a package of mushrooms, you should be good to go.  The end result is a dish that is delicious, elegant, and appears as though you spent far more time on it than you actually did.  It’s also great as leftovers.

Chicken and Artichokes in a White Wine Sauce
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Ingredients:
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. herbes de provence (or a combination of other dried herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano, thyme)
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (2 chicken breasts total)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 (14 oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Minced fresh parsley, for serving

Directions:
In a pie plate or shallow dish, combine the flour, dried herbs, salt and pepper and stir with a fork to blend.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture.  Using tongs, coat the chicken breast halves in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.  Remove the chicken to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Add the butter to the pan and warm until melted.  Add the mushrooms and artichokes to the pan and cook until most of the liquid is released from the mushrooms and the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine the white wine, chicken broth, and reserved tablespoon of flour; whisk until smooth.  Add the mixture to the skillet, cooking until it is warm and slightly thickened.  Return the chicken to the pan to warm through and cover with sauce.  Serve the chicken with sauce spooned over the top, and garnish with grated Parmesan and fresh parsley as desired.

Source: adapted from Proceed With Caution, originally from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Bridal Edition