Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cookbook Adventures: Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

So, here's the thing: I've had this cookbook for years, but on the back flap is a photo of the author. Every time I see that photo, I think to myself "Um... I don't think this is going to turn out well..."In spite of this (understandable, yeah?) trepidation, I tried his Caesar Salad recipe a few weeks back with Mindy and it rocked, so I decided to forge ahead and try another recipe that sounded great to me: Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
It's a bit on the rustic-looking side, but it's so delicious that I don't really care. I'll admit to not following his recipe 100% (I mean... look at him! Plus, I have a sous vide obsession...), but this dish was fantastic and I will definitely make it many many many more times.I've gotten really into ricotta ever since (a) I started having amazing milk delivered by a milk man every week and (b) I learned I could make it sous vide (now even easier with my chamber vacuum!), and I suspect that fact combined with my love of roasted red peppers to make me decide I should make this dish. (The recipe is reproduced here, if you would like to make it yourself but are scared to buy the weird man's book...) A look at the ingredients for the ricotta stuffing make it clear that this isn't going to suck:
Fresh ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, shallot, thyme, chives, and basil...
Awesome. I seasoned this up with salt and a bit of cayenne pepper, because I am really into cayenne pepper lately...
I cut a slit in my chicken breasts and seasoned inside and out with salt and cayenne. (The recipe calls for crushed red pepper flakes instead of cayenne here, but I feel like you risk a distracting texture with the red pepper flakes... plus I'm really into cayenne lately...) Stuffing goes in, and then the breast is wrapped in plastic wrap to maintain its shape...
... before being vacuum sealed. (There may or may not be a risk of ricotta filling smooshing out without the plastic wrap... I decided to play it safe.)
The stuffed chicken breasts went into a 143°F water bath for around 90 minutes, then all but the about-to-be-eaten portion went into an ice bath to chill and be refrigerated until I was ready for them. The sauce was simple and actually pretty healthy. You start with some garlic (plus, in my modified version, shallots) sautéed until soft.
A bit of tomato paste is added and cooked briefly...
Meanwhile, the red bell peppers I'd roasted (mmmm....) are roughly chopped, as are some basil and fresh oregano...
The recipe calls for sherry and chicken stock at this point. I was going to use water instead of chicken stock, but I also didn't have any sherry... You're supposed to use red wine instead if you want to do a red wine pairing, but I also didn't own any reds that were affordable enough to feel OK about chucking in a sauce. What I ended up doing (and will do again next time) is deglazing with a couple glugs of cognac, then adding about a cup of white wine (along with the bell peppers and herbs).
This reduces a bit, and is then puréed into a smooth, flavorful, totally kick-ass sauce.
That's it for the work. Plating time. The chicken was perfectly cooked after its sous vide treatment. These breasts came from a well-endowed chicken, and it rocked to be able to just know that things were perfectly cooked. (I hate baking chicken breasts... especially if they're filled with a soft stuffing, so you can't use pressure to test for doneness...)
The night that I made this, I just chucked the still-warm stuffed chicken breast in the middle of a pile of sauce and put it under the broiler for a minute or two to color the top. (Look how huge these breasts were! Yeesh.)
You can see the yumminess oozing out, but for company I would recommend slicing the stuffed breast while it's still cold from the ice bath, then plating up in whatever way works for you and heating afterward.I was very sad when I finished the last of the 4 servings I made of this dish. It will definitely have to enter the rotation of easy, delicious, not-ridiculously-bad-for-you dishes... Turns out you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover... or by the really weird-looking guy featured on that cover.

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