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
There is a new cookbook about to hit the stores: Le Pain Quotidien by Alain Coumont and Jean-Pierre Gabriel. If you know about the Le Pain Quotidien stores [restaurant, bistro, coffee shop all in one], then your curiosity is already stirring. If you never had the pleasure of dining at the long communal table that is emblematic of each Pain Quotidien site, then here is a recipe to stir your imagination.
In a nutshell, a corn cream — accented with lime zest and jalapeno — is spread over bread. Goat cheese is dotted on top, and the concoction is placed under the broiler to let the cheese melt down and mingle with the cream. It’s very satisfying. Personally, I doubled the amount of corn, cut right off the cob. It is a meal unto itself.
Tomorrow I’ll review the book in general, giving you more recipe ideas. Since “pain quotidian” roughly translates to “daily bread” there are a bevy of bread-based recipes. But, as this one shows, you can have magnificent style and a most satisfying meal by topping that bread with some basic treats.
Although this recipe says it serves 2, the recipe can be easily scaled. The bread slices can be cut once they are out of the oven and you can use this as a dandy warm appetizer. Make lots. People are going to gobble it down.
Corn, Jalapeño and Goat Cheese Tartine
Yield: Serves 2
For the salsa:
- 1 tomato, diced
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- ½ garlic clove crushed
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- Juice of one limes
For the tartine:
- 1 slice smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 4 tablespoons cream fraiche
- ½ garlic clove crushed
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
- Grated rind of ½ lime
- ½ cup corn, canned or fresh [about ½ cob]
- 2 slices of sourdough bread, medium thickness, fairly wide
- 2 ½ ounces of young, soft goat cheese [or feta], sliced
- Cilantro leaves for decoration, optional
Preheat your oven broiler.
Make the salsa by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and mixing.
In a small saucepan, combine the bacon, crème fraiche, garlic, jalapeno and lime rind with 1 tablespoon of water. Place over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the corn. Remove from the hat.
Spread the corn cream onto the bread. Divide the goat cheese between the two tartines. Then place them under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is just beginning to melt. Removed from the boiler. Serve immediately with the salsa on the side.
If you desire you can dot the tartines with cilantro leaves for color, contrast, and flavor. To make them easier to eat, you can cut each one into 3-4 slices.
Source: Le Pain Quotidien by Alain Coumont and Jean-Pierre Gabriel