Some recipes sound quite tasty but disappoint when you make them. Not this one. Tasted as good as it sounded… Funny thing is, I wasn’t sure it would be a winner because chicken breasts can be a bit tricky when baked. However, the meat was tender and moist, it looked pretty nice when sliced, and I heard “this is really good” several times during our Sunday dinner. It is a bit involved to make on weeknights, but I guess one could spread the preparation, assembling the “roulades” the evening before and keeping them in the fridge without the pecan coating. Next evening, all that’s left to do is coat the meat with crumbs and bake. The recipe comes from Damaris Phillips show on FoodTV, Southern at Heart. I find her delightful, upbeat and funny. Even though for the most part her style of cooking is a bit too heavy for my taste, every once in a while I find something that calls my name. Like this chicken. Flavorful and quite elegant to boot.
PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS
(adapted from Damaris Phillips)
Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and ground black pepper
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
2/3 cup ground pecans
Coconut oil spray
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4-inch thick. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Sprinkle the goat cheese lengthwise on one half of each breast; then sprinkle with dill, and orange zest. Fold in the short ends as if folding a Mexican burrito, then, starting on the half with cheese, roll up into a tight cylinder. Close the seams with toothpicks or tie with kitchen twine.
Whisk the eggs in a wide, shallow dish with 1 tablespoon water. In a separate dish, combine the breadcrumbs and ground pecans. Sprinkle the stuffed chicken with salt and pepper. Dip in the egg mixture and then in the breadcrumb mixture; shake off excess breading.
Place the breaded chicken on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and spray with coconut oil. Bake to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the toothpicks. Cut in slices and serve.
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Comments: I know that goat cheese and dill are a match made in heaven, but you know what made this dish a real winner? The orange zest. In fact, the sweet citric flavor was even more intense two days later when we had leftovers for dinner. I served it with butternut squash “noodles” and asparagus, but of course the chicken would go well with many different side dishes. For instance, Damaris paired it with a Southern risotto, very hearty.
This recipe would be great for a dinner party, as you can prepare it all in advance and place the meat in the oven half an hour before you want to sit down for dinner. Keep in mind not to over-process the pecans, so that you get a bit more crunch on the topping. In typical Sally mode, I totally forgot that I have some pecan flour in the freezer. I bet it would be great to use maybe 50-50 with the bread crumbs, intensifying the pecan flavor. Something to consider for next time…
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