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Blue cheese, walnuts take chicken to another level

December , 2014

Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken is a great tasting and elegant dish for a dinner party.

A dish that comes together quickly can not only look pretty, but wow in the flavor department as well. That is, if you donít overcook the chicken.

But hereís my tip for getting moist boneless, skinless chicken breasts: Sear first, then bake them. To do this, itís a good idea to use a skillet thatís not nonstick but is ovenproof. Youíll get a better sear on the chicken if itís not nonstick. First, sear the chicken in the ovenproof skillet and then transfer it to a preheated oven to finish the cooking. Set your timer for about 8 minutes (for a chicken breast thatís about 1/2-inch thick end to end). The chicken turns out tender and juicy.

If you donít have an ovenproof skillet, use whatever skillet you have on hand and have ready a small glass pan. Once the chicken is seared, transfer it to a glass baking pan, scraping all the pan juices into the dish. As the chicken cooks in the oven it will create more juices. When the chicken is done, a delicious pan sauce can be made with those juices or pan drippings. You wonít have a lot of the sauce, but itís full-flavored and small amount goes a long way. If you want more sauce, double up on the chicken stock and add an extra tablespoon or more of lemon juice to taste.

In addition to a brightly flavored pan sauce, this dish gets a tangy flavor from blue cheese. In this recipe, only 1 tablespoon is used per serving, but you can use more if you like. You also can substitute an herbed goat cheese.

Another impressive flavor in this dish comes from the walnuts, which, like many other nuts, are pricey ingredients. One way to amp up their flavor is to toast them. Toasting the walnuts 6 to 8 minutes intensifies their flavor. And they look nice scattered over the chicken.

Serve this dish with a side of rice or couscous. I like to cook the rice with half chicken broth and half water. It also amps the flavor of the rice. Using a fragrant rice, such as basmati, lends another flavorful element to this dish. Basmati, when itís cooking, has a popcorn or nutty aroma that will make your guests wonder whatís cooking.

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BLUE CHEESE STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS

Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 10 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

We adapted this recipe from Food & Wine magazine, substituting blue cheese for goat cheese. Only a small amount of cheese (1 tablespoon) is used per serving, and we found the blue cheese has a stronger and tangier taste. Either one can be used.

1/4 cup walnut halves

1/4 cup favorite blue cheese or goat cheese

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Four 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

2 tablespoons walnut oil or canola oil

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Basmati rice for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast them in the oven for 6 minutes, until they are fragrant. Remove them from the oven, but leave the oven on. Let the walnuts cool, then chop them.

In a small bowl, mash the 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 cheese mixture and gently press to flatten them.

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the skillet. Cook it over moderately high heat, turning once, until itís browned, about 6 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken for 5 minutes.

Transfer the chicken breasts to a platter and keep them 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 serving plates and spoon the walnut sauce on top. Serve with steamed rice or couscous.

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, January 2006 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

356 calories (53 percent from fat), 21 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 3 g carbohydrates, 38 g protein, 223 mg sodium, 101 mg cholesterol, 75 mg calcium, 1 g fiber.

 

 


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