Saturday, September 29, 2007


Here is a simple one pan dish that you can leisurely cook in about an hour if you're organized, and about an hour and a half if you aren't. What you want to be sure to do, however, is pour yourself a nice glass of wine, turn up the music, and enjoy the experience either way!

Basically, these are chicken breasts stuffed with minced onion and spinach that are poached in chicken stock and served with braised fall vegetables and aromatics. The vegetables I used are carrots, leeks, pearl onions, turnips, kale, scallion and purple potato.

In order to make this dish, you will need two chicken breasts that are both skinless and boneless. I opted for bone in/skin on so I could bone them myself and use the bones for my stock.

I removed the wings, the rib bones, keel bone and shoulder bones. These were used along with some aromatics to make a pan stock. The aromatics were leek, onion, carrot, garlic, parsley stems and peppercorns.

These ingredients as they are can build a flavorful stock. They are used this way to make what is known as a blond stock. If these ingredients are roasted in the oven until browned first, the stock they produce is known as a brown stock. This is because the stock takes on a darker color due to the caramelization of the bones during roasting. But for our purpose, a blond stock will do.

As you can see, cleaning my own breasts yielded me the two breasts, two tenders and a pile of bones. The cost was less than buying two clean breasts. I paid less and got more. This is because I have to do the work of cleaning them myself.

The bones and the aromatics go into the pan with 4 cups of water and onto a high heat. The stock is brought to the boil and the heat is dropped immediately to a very slow simmer. This is to keep the stock from turning cloudy and to allow the bones enough time to infuse their flavor into the water before evaporation occurs.

When I was a chef in restaurants we would allow our stocks to cook over night at a super slow simmer. The heat would be increased in the morning by the morning crew and allowed to

simmer away until noon. This long, slow simmer extracted every bit of flavor out of the bones and prevented an accelerated evaporation of the valuable stock that was being produced.

The pan I am using for this is sort of half pan and half pot. It is perfect for just about everything, and here I use it to make our one pan dish.

The chicken breasts are butterflied and the tenders are pounded with a mallet. Since I am stuffing these breasts, I do this to ensure that the chicken will surround the filling completely. Once this is done the breasts are seasoned with salt and pepper.

The stuffing in this case is chopped spinach and onion. These are chopped finely, or minced, and seasoned with salt and pepper. This mixture is then placed on top of the breast and the fillet is laid over top. This gives me a top and a bottom to work with.

Now I transfer each breast onto a piece of plastic wrap. I then roll the sides of each breast up over the tender and wrap the whole breast up in the plastic wrap. This forms a sausage shaped package that is tied firmly at each end. This will give the chicken a nice shape when it is poached and will make for a nice presentation.

At this point I skimmed my stock. Sediment in the stock collects at the top of the stock and must be skimmed periodically. This yields a clearer stock.

I let the stock simmer for about an hour and then passed it through a strainer. I washed the pan and returned the hot stock to the pan. I then turned the heat up and brought it to a simmer.

While waiting for the stock to reach a simmer, I cleaned the vegetables for braising. I chose the vegetables for this dish based on the time of year and what was available in the farmer's market.

Carrots, kale, leeks, turnips, pearl onions and purple potatoes were what "popped" at me when I went to the market today. They made me think of fall and I thought they would make for a nice soft color combination for this dish.

After washing the vegetables, I pared them down to the desired shapes and sizes. I wanted this to be a rustic and comforting dish so I didn't cut them fine at all. They were all cut somewhat rough and country style.

Once the stock hit the simmer, I placed the wrapped breasts in and turned down the heat to a slow simmer. I poached the breasts for about 20 minutes and then removed them from the stock and allowed them to stand still wrapped while I braised the vegetables.

I braised the vegetables by putting them into the stock and allowing them to cook to the desired tenderness. The harder vegetables (carrot, turnips and pearl onions) went into the stock followed shortly after by the softer ones.

For two servings, I allowed for 3 potatoes, 4 baby carrots, 3 large kale leaves, 8 pearl onions, 1/4 leek, 2 scallions and about 1 cup of diced turnips.

I allowed the veggies to cook until a little past el dente. This is good for this dish.

Once the vegetables were cooked it was time to plate the dish! I unwrapped the chicken and sliced it on a bias. It's best to use the sharpest, thinnest knife you have for this in order to reduce drag. A thick knife, or a dull knife can make a mess of stuffed, delicate meats.

I then spooned the vegetables generously around the chicken. I finished off with a bit of braised red cabbage and beet for a touch of color.

This is a healthy, low fat meal fit for a queen. I served this to my kids tonight and I ate what they didn't finish. If I were to make it for myself, I would have omitted the potato to have a low carb meal. But the potatoes are a nice accompaniment if you are not concerned with that.

This is by no means a fancy dish and it is very easy to put together. If you wanted to sidestep the stock-making you could buy a good chicken broth as a substitute and your dish would great.

I wanted to show three things with this dish: how to stuff a breast of chicken, how to make a quick pan stock and how to make a one pan dish. I hope you learned a little something and you will try this dish sometime soon!

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