October may not be the showiest month of the year in Southern Arizona (for fall leaves we have to drive up nearby Mt. Lemon–all of 45 minutes away) but it is my favorite month of the year. Temperatures are predictably moderate. Windows and doors can be wide open all day and no A.C. or furnace needed. So despite the doubters–we do have autumn.
This recipe for Autumn Stuffed Chicken Breasts is not an ancestral hand-me-down, although stuffing things into other things is a very long tradition in cooking. Very popular in the 16th and 17th century, and I have no doubt the Romans and Greeks stuffed fowl, too.
In my never ending quest to channel my ancestors who never let anything go to waste, I looked at what was in the fridge and thought, I could chop up that withering apple, mix in some of those dried cranberries that I keep forgetting about, and use up that little chunk of cheese. I just need to thaw a boneless chicken breast and make stuffed chicken breasts. Grandma would be proud.
Just like Grandma, I always have a chicken to eat. Except Grandma would have gone out to the yard, picked a chicken that had not been laying well and wrung its neck. Then she would hang it by its feet on the clothesline to bleed out. Later she would boil a pot of water, take it outdoors, dip the chicken in the hot water and then sit at an outdoor table surrounded by a cloud of feathers as she plucked away. Finally there are those pesky pin feathers, that need to be singed in order to get them off. In older times, a wood fire, and in my Grandma’s day the gas flame from the stovetop would work. And then there’s the butchering.
Thanks goodness for grocery stores and freezers!
Once I had dreamed up my recipe for stuffed chicken breasts, I went looking through my old recipe books to see if I could find anything remotely similar. (No matter how creative I think I am, when I search on the Internet for a recipe similar to one I just “invented”, I find dozens almost identical to the one I thought I created.) Interestingly, although some of the older books had stuffed poultry, it was almost always stuffed with another kind of meat rather than the fruits and cheese I wanted to use. So until I can find proof otherwise, this is a modern concept.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
- chicken breasts, boned and skinned (two large or four small)
- 1 apple (diced)
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup cheese (diced. Cheddar, or substitute what you have on hand.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (for browning)
- 2 tablespoons butter (fro browning)
- 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 3/4 cups chicken broth (unsalted)
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs ((If you have them))
|1.||Put cranberries in small dish or cup and cover with water to reconstitute while making the rest.|
|2.||Cut pocket in small breasts (or if larger than 1/2" thick, cut in half and cover with waxed paper and smash with mallet or blade of knife until about 1/4" thick).|
|3.||Mix drained cranberries into apple-cheese mix and season with salt and pepper. Stuff chicken breasts, securing with toothpicks if necessary. Salt and pepper outside.|
|4.||Brown chicken breasts in olive oil and butter, just until brown on outside, about 4 minutes.|
|5.||Pour balsamic and broth mixture into skillet around breasts and add thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil and then reduce to fast simmer. Cook until chicken is done through. (Picture here shows chicken while browning--before cooking.)|
|6.||Remove chicken from skillet and put on plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Bring broth to boil and reduce until syrupy. Pour sauce over chicken to serve.|
Important! The photo used to illustrate this shows stuffed chicken breasts browning, but still raw inside. Be sure to cook thoroughly.
Cheese: Use up what you have, or what sounds good to you. Feta would be very good in this recipe. Cheddar is the go-to for cooking with apples. I happened to have some goat cheese and some cheddar/monterey jack so that is what I used. I think it would be improved with a stronger flavored cheese like asiago or feta or parmesan.
If you want to make a fancier dish, you can slice the chicken in rounds for serving. I took the easy way out and just folded the split breast over the filling and fastened it with toothpicks.
Broth--use cider instead of balsamic vinegar to up the apple flavor.