This post is appearing early on a Saturday morning, offering you plenty of time to think about weekend meals. How long has it been since “chicken” inspired you? Seriously? I do know that barbecuing chicken can, with the rubs and sauces, and then blackening, can give you a renewed chicken experience.
But summer is winding down and you’ve probably had several birds off the grill with that special black flavor that is becoming all too familiar.
Time to step back, reconsider, evaluate, and find a chicken dish that is refreshingly different.
How about figs? If you eat chicken often, you probably eat figs less than often. Maybe never. Or maybe you tried one once, found your fingers sticking together, and vowed never again to become involved with a fig. I understand. Growing up in Oregon, our house had two fig trees that were constantly surround by bees guarding that very sweet fruit. It was impossible to sneak even one fig without being stung. So, I have had a very deep fig aversion.
Marie Simmons is one of our favorite and most trusted cookbook authors. Take any of her recipes, make it, and you will have success. She is meticulous about her writing and her testing. And her passions. A decade ago she wrote Fig Heaven, a book reflecting her total embrace of this neglected fruit.
Marie knows it can take a bit of persuasion to get us fig-phobic types to consider giving them another try. So, in this recipe she resorts to blatant bribery. Fill a chicken breast a mixture of goat cheese, figs and spice. Wrap the breast in bacon. Cook, create a wine-based sauce and surround the chicken in surreal flavor.
This dish takes a little time to prepare, but offers you surprising rewards. It’s grand for a Saturday or Sunday dinner.
Figs are Asian in origin, eaten for perhaps 10,000 years. Today, they are grown in abundance in Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Iran. So, when sampling and buying, look for a Middle Eastern grocery store with experts behind the counter. They already know what Marie is trying to tell you: figs are heaven.
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Figs and Goat Cheese
Yield: 8 servings
- 4 large boneless and skinless chicken breast halves, fillets removed (see Note)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cup diced fresh green or black figs (about 12 figs)
- ½ cup crumbled well-chilled goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon ground all-spice
- ½ teaspoon ground chili powder
- Pinch of salt
- 4 thick cut slices pancetta or bacon (about ⅛ inch thick)
- ½ cup dry white wine
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
Tip: 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.
Source: Fig Heaven by Marie Simmons
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.0 for1/40th second at ISO‑200
There are times when I can eat a dish and feel that I have done something actually healthy. Asian cuisines are my favorites for this “feel good” situation. I know, tempura and fried rice are not exactly high on the healthy scale. But, this dish is. It’s beautiful when plated: elegant lettuce leaves embracing ground pork or chicken [or both] sizzling hot out of the wok. Scents of garlic and fish sauce and lime wafting through the air.
If you have the ingredients on hand, this dish is rapidly prepared. It’s ideal for a quick week night meal where you are short on time but long for a taste treat, something to just break up the routine of those standard recipes that keeping repeating onto your table.
While this can be a meal unto itself, we often serve it with sautéed vegetables, say peppers, for contrast in color and flavor.
The recipe calls for chiles, so you have room for maneuver here. How much heat do you want? Small shallots are included, but you can supplement with scallions or other onions for contrast and flavor.
Oh, chopsticks are optional, but recommended. You’ve gone to good effort here, so you should complete the gestalt. And a cold beer, very cold.
When Suzen serves this to her corporate clients at Cooking by the Book, for some reason they often request a brownie for dessert. We don’t have an official Vietnamese brownie recipe here on the blog, but you should check out for the Killer Brownies:
No chopsticks required.
Don’t have a wok? You can improvise, but woks are so inexpensive and so useful that it is time to visit your local kitchen supply store. Remember the saying: you have to wok before you can run. At least, I think I heard that saying.
Vietnamese Ginger Pork/Chicken Lettuce Cups
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled, finely grated
- 2 red or green chiles, seeded, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 pound ground pork/ground chicken
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon superfine sugar or granulated sugar
- 12 small iceberg, Bibb, or Boston lettuce leaves
- 5 radishes, thinly sliced
- 4 small shallots, thinly sliced
- Fresh mint sprigs and lime wedges for garnish and accent
In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, and half of the chiles.
In a large wok or a large, deep skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add garlic mixture and stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add the meat and cook, stirring constantly, 3 to 4 minutes, until meat begins to brown and is no longer pink. Add lime zest, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar and cook 2 minutes.
Remove from heat; taste to adjust seasonings if necessary.
Spoon into lettuce cups; sprinkle with radishes, shallots, mint, and remaining chiles. Serve with lime wedges.
Source: Frank Melodia in Redbook Magazine
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for1/30th second at ISO‑100