Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Four Figgy Chicky

And there I saw them, probably the last ones I'll see for awhile: fresh figs.

I love fresh figs. Plain, wrapped in melon, served with cheese, hot, cold, you name it. If there were a natures candy, these would be it.

While perusing through The Silver Spoon, I found a recipe for chicken stuffed with mushrooms, ham, and mascarpone. Looked pretty tasty but it a) required two ovens to really get it going and b) didn't have figs.

With some modifications, here's what I came up with. The amounts, funny enough, are pretty easy to remember. And while the recipe looks long this actually comes together pretty fast.

4 boneless chicken breasts
4 fresh figs
4 slices cooked ham
4 large mushrooms
4 TBS mascarpone
4 sprigs fresh parsley
4 TBS butter
4 garlic cloves
¼ cup kosher salt
A lot of toothpicks

Brine the chicken: In a two quart bowl add 1 quart of cold water and the salt. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat end of a knife (it's OK to keep the skins on) and add to the brine. Stir to dissolve the salt.

Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry. Cut off the tenderloin, if present, from the breasts. Take each breast and slice horizontally to about ½ inch from the end and unfold. Sandwich each breast between two pieces of wax paper and pound with a mallet until the chicken is about ¼ - ½ inch thick. Don't beat the shit out of it; be gentle in your pounding since you don't want to tear it.

Place the chicken in the brine - tenderloins too as they're your snack while cooking - and set in the fridge for 20 minutes. Meanwhile....

...remove the stems from the mushrooms (and discard) and slice each mushroom into 10 even pieces and mince the parsley. In a skillet add 2 TBS of butter and bring to a bubble. Add the mushrooms and a big pinch of salt and gently saute over medium heat just until the mushrooms begin to turn brown. Add the parsley, stir up for about 30 seconds, remove the mushrooms and set aside keeping the leftover fat in the pan. Meanwhile...

...take each fig and slice into four, round pieces. In a small skillet add 1 TBS of butter and bring to a bubble over medium heat. Add the figs and let brown on each side for about 4 minutes; you should get a nice crust on these. Remove the figs and set aside.

The dog, at this point, knows something good is going on and assumes the feed-me-I'm-you're-best-buddy-pose.

Now, here's where the bitch of this process comes in: stuffing the breasts. Lay each breast flat on a cutting board. On one side of the breast add a slice of ham, ¼ of the mushrooms, ¼ of the figs, and 1 TBS of mascarpone. Fold the other half of the chicken over and using toothpicks - and a lot of creativity - seal the chicken to make a pouch. By my fourth one I finally got this to kind'a work.

Further proof it doesn't have to look good to taste good. You could also use kitchen twine to do this (as my buddy John suggested this morning) but I wasn't thinking. Next time I'll most likely do that. Note that I'm using big toothpicks - they're actually small bamboo spears about 5" long that you can find in many Japanese markets. Very handy.

In the same skillet you cooked the mushrooms add the last TBS of butter (extra if there isn't enough from the mushroom saute) and brown the butter over medium heat. Cook the breasts two at a time; if your skillet is large enough do four but you want at least 1 inch between pieces. Each should cook about 3 - 5 minutes per side; cover the chicken while cooking so it retains the heat. Since your chicken is pretty thin and the insides are a little warm too it will cook fast. If you have space in the pan throw a few of the tenderloins in just to cook them.

Remove the toothpicks prior to eating (duh) and serve with pasta, if you like.

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