Here’s a dish to surprise your dinner guess. The chicken breast is wrapped with bacon so visually each person knows what to suspect when they take that bite. Of course, as they cut that bite, there will be something squishy in the middle: that’s the first hint of the bounty to come.
When they take that first chew, the surprise begins delivery: the strong bacon taste is paired with something cheesy and then, then there is more. An underlying sweetness that serves to bind the whole dish together. The secret, and the surprise is there in the middle of each chicken breast: a mixture of earthy goat cheese and fig.
And, as a final surprise, there will be heat. A combination of all-spice and chili powder has been sprinkled on each chicken breast for sensory acceleration.
Several years ago our friend Marie Simmons wrote Fig Heaven. This is her recipe and the book title is not, as it turns out, an overstatement about fig power. Figs can be heavenly. Sticky, that’s true. But heavenly as well, particularly when paired with a good cheese. [If you are not a goat cheese fan, then feel free to substitute any other softer cheese.]
This post is coming up on a Sunday. A June Sunday that is supposed to be filled with sunshine and warmth. There is still time to get to the grocery store, fire up your grill [instead of the suggested oven], and end the weekend with a superb treat. If grilling and not cooking in the oven, use your barbecuing senses, plus smell and touch, to judge doneness.
We paired this chicken dish with rice, grilled tomatoes, and grilled green beans and asparagus. It’s an homage to summer, an early summer feast that you do not want to miss.
With the sides we used, this is a meal unto itself. No need for other sides or salad. Just save room for dessert.
One other point. Suzen uses this dish for her culinary team building events at Cooking by the Book. It’s the perfect dish to create with a “team” because there are many steps. Particularly if you are preparing this dish for a group, say 20 or 30 people, you can have assignments for making the stuffing, pocketing the chicken, wrapping with the bacon, and grilling. It’s an assembly line dish that would put a smile on Henry Ford.
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Figs and Goat Cheese
Yield: 4 servings
For the chicken:
- 4 large boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
For the stuffing:
- 2 cups diced fresh green or black dried figs [about 12 figs]
- ½ cup crumbled well-chilled goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 egg
For the spice mixture and wrapping:
- ½ teaspoon ground all-spice
- ½ teaspoon ground chili powder
- Pinch of salt
- 4 thick slices pancetta or bacon [about 1/8 inch thick]
- ½ cup dry white wine
If the chicken breasts come with the fillet attached, remove them. The fillet is the long slender piece attached to the bottom side of each breast half. They are sometimes removed from the chicken breasts and sold separately as “chicken tenders.” Pull them off and reserve them for another use, such as in stir-fries or soup.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the chicken breasts, smooth side up, on a work surface with the thickest portion to your right. Butterfly the breast by cutting through the thick side toward the tapered side so that you can open the breast like a book.
Sprinkle the butterflied chicken breasts inside and out ‘with ½ tablespoon of the thyme leaves, pinch of salt, and a grinding of pepper.
For the stuffing: In a small bowl combine the figs, goat cheese, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, garlic, egg, ½ tablespoon thyme,½ teaspoon salt, and a grinding of black pepper. Toss to combine.
For spice mixture: In a small bowl combine the allspice, ground chili and salt, toss to combine.
Spoon the stuffing onto one side of each chicken breast, dividing it evenly. Close the chicken over the stuffing. Sprinkle on closed over chicken the spice mixture.
Wrap a slice of bacon or pancetta around each chicken breast. Use a tooth pick (or a small metal skewer) to hold the breast closed and keep the bacon or pancetta in place.
Oil a large (about 13 X 9-inch) shallow flameproof baking pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Place the chicken breasts in the pan and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn and roast the other side until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven; transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover with foil.
Add the wine to the roasting pan and heat to a boil over high heat, scraping up the browned bits and reducing the wine to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Drizzle the wine over the chicken, and serve.
Source: Fig Heaven by Marie Simmons
Photo Information [top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/10th second at ISO-3200
Our first test from Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook was more than a success. It was delicious. There are two recipes here, one for the chicken which involves the second, a House Rub that you can use and use again. The range for the rub is far beyond chicken.
The header for this recipe says to go old. Get an old chicken if you can, old and free range. The “normal” chicken in your store is really a baby, fed well for six week and then given the axe. A free range chicken, with some months of wandering about on its resume, will give you the better flavor
The recipe calls for cooking this on a smoker. We did smoke, using our Cameron stovetop smoker with apple wood. Our chicken was thick so Suzen did the splitting job. The chicken did not suffer.
The Pitt Cue Co boys suggests that this dish be served with their special Iceberg Salad and Anchovy Salad Cream. Recipes shall appear here promptly. In the meantime, do look for a copy of Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Yes, the authors are British. Yes, they know how to barbeque, really know.
Whole Spicy Smoked Roast Chicken
Yield: serves 3 to 4
- 3 tablespoons chipotle chili paste [the adobo paste in the can]
- ½ stick unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 ¾ ounces roasted garlic paste [roast garlic and mash it up]
- Heaping ¼ cup House Rub [recipe follows]
- 1 free range chicken, about 3 ¼ pounds
Blitz the chipotle chili paste, butter, maple syrup, roasted garlic paste, and house rub in a blender to a paste. Make slashes about ½ inch deep into the thighs of the chicken with a sharp knife, then rub the chicken thoroughly inside and out with the paste. Put it into a dish, cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
Prepare a barbeque for smoking [see the book pages 114-115 for details, another reason to buy the book].
Put the chicken , breast-side up, into a roasting pan that will fit inside your barbeque and smoke/roast for 1 ½ hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 158°F and juices run clear when the chicken is bricked with a knife at the thickest point of the thigh area.
Remove the chicken from barbeque and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Source: Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook by The Boys at Pitt Cue
Photo Information [top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/20th second at ISO-3200
Yield: 10 ½ ounces
- 1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- ⅓ cup fine salt
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- ¼ cup regular paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
Toast the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and coriander seed in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan, until the spices release an aroma. Tip into a bowl and let cool.
Blitz the toasted spices in a blender to a rough powder. Combine with the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Keep in a sealed container for up to 1 week.