Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post this on the blog! This is my go-to recipe if I’m trying to be a show off and do impressive types of things. The reason for that is this recipe is fairly easy to do once you get the hang of it, and it tastes yummy and whoever you’re trying to impress will think you spent the whole day in the damn kitchen, just preparing for their very presence (when in fact this will only take about half an hour of prep).

I saw this recipe first from Chef Michael Smith, who, frankly, is a total dreamboat. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so, because he left that wife (mother of Gabe, the child) that was always on his show. And fair enough, because she did not show enough enthusiasm for his recipes, in my opinion. I mean, the man is on national television, and all you can muster to show that you like the supper he slaved over is an “Mmm… hmm,”? I don’t want this blog to get TOO racy, but let’s face it, if that was the show for national television in the kitchen, I can’t imagine she was all that enthused about other activities she and Michael may have shared. 

Now listen, I’m not trying to get all “Stand By Your Man” here… It goes both ways. If someone has taken the trouble to cook you a nice dinner, for the love of God, try a little. A “Wow, delicious!” never hurt anyone. This is just a little free advice, just to go with this recipe. I promise I know what I’m talking about. And mostly, I’m just sad I didn’t work fast enough at trying to chase down Chef Michael Smith.
Yes, that is my vat of olive oil for just one girl. 

For this recipe, you need:

Chicken breast
Fresh basil (cheat with pre-made pesto if you MUST, but effort goes both ways, so don’t expect any fawning if this is the route you choose)
Pine nuts
Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil
Optional: Mozzarella cheese or prosciutto if you really want to get suggestive. Michael Smith uses prosciutto, and clearly his chicken got him in all sorts of trouble, so I’m assuming it’s worth the extra effort.

The first thing you’ll want to do is make your homemade pesto. This is simpler than it sounds. In a food processor, place a handful of fresh basil (stems are fine here) some pine nuts, the Parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil. You want this to be thicker than your standard pesto for pasta, because this is a stuffing. If it’s too much liquid, it won’t really “stuff”, it will just “glaze”. So keep that in mind.

This is the idea texture for your pesto. 
Whip that through the processor until you have a nice solid, but well chopped, texture. Add a little garlic to the mix if you want. Next, make the pockets in your chicken breast. This is the trickiest part, but only because it takes once or twice for practice, then you’ll be good to go. Chicken breasts have a little flappy bit on them sometimes, but don’t use that for the stuffing. Cut a pocket into the actual meat of the breast, about an inch shy of either end and about two inches deep, depending on the size of your chicken.

They're prettier when they're cooked. 
Next step, take your pesto and put it into the pocket of the chicken. Here’s an important food safety tip: do not let your spoon touch the raw chicken if you plan on using any of the pesto afterwards. That, my friends, is called cross-contamination, and it’s a big no-no if you’d like to avoid giving your entire family salmonella. So, you have two options. Touch the chicken and use all the pesto, or don’t touch the chicken and save the pesto. (Or, if you are a paranoid hypochondriac about food like myself, everything goes in the garbage after, lest you poison people). Maybe this goes without saying, but also do not cut the raw chicken and then use the knife to cut the tomatoes for your salad or something. Anything that touches raw chicken is now fit for the dishwasher only.

That’s all you need to do. Now, if you’re going the extra mile (or extra-marital) you can add mozzarella cheese to the pocket, which will melt in a delicious fashion. Or, wrap the chicken breast in prosciutto and bake it like that. Also wonderful and delicious. You can see that this recipe, once you have the basic idea, affords you all sorts of room to change and add. Maybe you want both cheese and prosciutto, or perhaps you use an arugula pesto instead. Whatever. The choice is up to you, because Chef Michael Smith believes in your ability to make good choices. 

Post Script: I forgot to tell you how to cook the breasts! Salt and pepper them to flavour them, then either bake in the oven at 375 for half an hour, or barbecue them until they're done. I have no idea how long this takes... 25 to 30 minutes is usually a good estimate. 

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