Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
Now that spring is here, I’ve been craving beautiful green veggies and lots of fresh herbs, and this stuffed-chicken dish brings both to the table.
For the inexperienced, stuffing a piece of meat or poultry might seem daunting, but it's fairly simple with the right guidance. It adds a few extra minutes to the prep time, but it's well worth the effort: There's an added "wow" factor when you cut into the chicken and the melted goat-cheese filling spills out, waiting to be scooped up with the next bite. For an added textural contrast, I coated the chicken breasts with a crunchy almond crust.
The goat-cheese filling for this dish takes its inspiration from gremolada, an Italian condiment of lemon zest, garlic and parsley. The punchy flavors of lemon and parsley, with the added piquancy of garlic, really capture the spirit of springtime. I simply blended gremolada into an herbed goat cheese for extra flavor. If you prefer to skip the dairy, the gremolada would make a wonderful filling on its own. You can also vary the herbs to suit your tastes or the season. And save any extra goat-cheese filling—it makes a great spread!
A classic green beans amandine accompanies the chicken. I prepared the green beans by blanching them first, which is the best way to ensure even cooking if you’re making a large batch. I've been known to indulge in a blanching shortcut from time to time, however, especially with smaller quantities: In a covered sauté pan with a little water, steam the green beans for a few minutes; once they’re nearly cooked to tender-crisp, uncover the pan, let the water cook off, then add butter, lemon juice and seasonings. You might get a little more browning on the green beans, but it’ll save you an extra pan.
I expected this dish to be pretty versatile with fresh white wines. We tried a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Portuguese Alentejo white wine blend and both worked very well.
The Sauvignon Blanc was fresh and juicy with lots of citrus. While it did have some green bell pepper notes, they were countered by the herbs in the stuffing.
The Alentejo blend likewise offered snappy citrus flavors, along with tart green apple. A toasty element and a rounded mouthfeel added a textural component, and mineral notes played with the saltiness of the cheese, adding complexity and making this the wine pick of the evening.
Pair with a crisp, citrusy Portuguese white such as Herdade do Esporão Alentejo Monte Velho White 2015 (88 points, $12) or a juicy, fresh New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc such as Brancott Marlborough 2015 (90 points, $14).
Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour to 75 minutes
Total time: 75 to 95 minutes
Approximate food costs: $30
1. Preheat oven to 425° F and set a large pot of salted water to boil.
2. Combine the parsley, whole garlic cloves and half the lemon zest in a food processor and pulse to chop. Add the goat cheese and run until smooth. Transfer to a separate container and keep chilled until ready to use.
3. Butterfly the chicken breasts, slicing 3/4 of the way through, then open the butterflied breast like a book. Lay them all open and flat and spoon goat cheese mixture into the middle of each chicken breast. Close each of the chicken breasts over the goat cheese and season with salt and pepper.
4. Line up a bowl of the whisked eggs next to a plate of the ground almonds. Dip each stuffed chicken breast into the egg mixture, then roll in the almonds to coat. Carefully secure each chicken breast with toothpicks, approximately 2 to 3 per chicken breast, as needed, and place them on a greased baking sheet. Place the chicken breasts in the oven and bake until an internal-read thermometer reaches 165° F, approximately 20 to 30 minutes. (Note that timing will vary depending on the size of the chicken breasts.) If almonds need further browning, place the chicken under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove toothpicks and set aside.
5. Start the green beans about halfway through the chicken’s baking time. Place the green beans in the boiling water. Blanch for approximately 4 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Drain the green beans. Note: This step can be done in advance. If you’re not planning on finishing the green beans right away, shock them in cold water and store them in the refrigerator.
6. Toast the remaining 1/2 cup of sliced almonds in a large, dry pan over medium-high heat until lightly golden brown, stirring often. Transfer the almonds to a separate bowl and set aside. Clean out the pan.
7. Return the pan to the stove and melt the butter over medium heat, then add the lemon juice. Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute. Return the sliced almonds and the green beans to the pan and toss well to combine, for 1 to 2 minutes or until green beans are coated and heated through. Season with lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Remove from stove. Plate each chicken breast with a serving of green beans. Serves 4.