Suzi's Blog

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Figs and Goat Cheese from Fig Heaven by Marie Simmons

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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

Ingredients:

  • 4 large boneless and skinless chicken breast halves, fillets removed (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Stuffing Mixture:

  • 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

Spice Mixture:

  • 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

Preparation:

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

 

Buttery Hazelnut-Fig Biscotti

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Biscotti come in various forms. Some are so hard you could use them to pave a freeway. And some are just perfect.

These are delightfully perfect. And, they have a double life. This recipe calls for all-purpose flour. If you have family or friends with Celiac disease, then you can substitute gluten-free flour here and obtain a wonderful, and just ever so slightly different, treat. The figs will look a bit like chocolate chips, but they aren’t and when you bite into them you get that wonderful fruit flavor. Of course, there’s nothing to keep you from adding in some chips just for fun.

Suzen works with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, offering monthly events where Celiac patients and families come to learn to cook together. The wonderful thing we have learned is that a Celiac-friendly meal can be absolutely wonderful. From appetizers through dessert. At this week’s event, everyone left with biscotti on their palette and the recipe in their hands.

Buttery Hazelnut-Fig Biscotti

Yield: 6 dozen biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups hazelnuts [10 ounces]
  • 14 ounces dried Calimyrna figs
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 12 to 14 minutes, until the skins blister. Let cool, then transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel and rub off as much of the skins as possible. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, cover the figs with water and microwave at high power for 1 minute, just until the figs are plump. Drain well. Trim off the stem ends and slice the figs ⅛ inch thick.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the eggs. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat at low speed until combined. Add the nuts and figs and beat until combined.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a work surface and roll into six 10-by-1 ½-inch logs. Arrange the logs on the baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and firm. Let the logs cool for 15 minutes.

On a work surface, using a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal ⅔ inch thick. Arrange the biscotti cut sides up on the baking sheets and bake for about 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Let the biscotti cool, then serve or store.

Source: Vergennes, VT: A Bakery’s Perfect Tarts and Desserts described in foodandwine.com

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM lens shot at F/5.0, 1/60th second, ISO 2000