I approached the recipes for “Cacciatore Butter-Stuffed Chicken” and “Lemon & Peas Pasta” (recipes adapted from the February 2012 issue of Cuisine at Home, below) as a PROJECT. Much time and finesse was required to make this chicken happen: make a compound butter and chill it; pound/flatten the chicken breasts, stuff them and chill them with that compound butter; bread the stuffed chicken and chill again; fry and roast the stuffed chicken, measuring its temperature throughout. Hours of time. And the end result? Memorable chicken with a crunchy, “deep-fried” exterior and moist, flavorful center. We loved it.

Cacciatore Butter-Stuffed Chicken
Cuisine at Home, February 2012
Serves 4

1 cup diced cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. dry red wine
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and softened (8 Tbsp.)
2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp. minced lemon zest
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6-7 oz. each)
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
Canola oil

Mince mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and rosemary in a food processor.

Sauté vegetable mixture in 1 Tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper, and cook until moisture evaporates, 15 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until dry, 2 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine and cook until dry, 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl; cool to room temperature, 15 minutes.

Mash 1 stick butter, vegetable mixture, basil, and zest in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Spread filling onto plastic wrap into a 4-inch square; wrap, chill, until firm 30 minutes, and quarter.

Pound chicken breasts to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick, one at a time, inside a resealable plastic bag with 1 tsp. water using the smooth side of a mallet. Place the bag on a kitchen towel to cushion the chicken during pounding. Avoid pounding breasts too thin to prevent holes or torn edges.

Stuff chicken breasts by placing a quarter of the filling in the center of each pounded breast. Fold the end of the breast over the filling, tuck in the sides, then continue rolling until the filling is covered. Tightly wrap the stuffed breast in plastic wrap, then repeat stuffing and wrapping with remaining breasts. Chill breasts at least one hour, as long as overnight, or freeze until just firm.

Bread the chicken by first dredging in 1/4 cup flour, then dipping into the beaten egg, and finally rolling in the panko breadcrumbs, pressing to coat. At this point, the crumbs need to adhere to the chicken. Wrap the breaded breasts in plastic wrap and chill to set the coating, at least one hour or up to 3 hours.

Fry all the stuffed breasts until browned on both sides in 1/2-inch of canola oil heated to 375 degrees, 5-7 minutes. After browning, transfer breasts to a rack set over a baking sheet and transfer to the oven preheated to 450 degrees. Roast stuffed breasts until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the chicken registers 165 degrees, 15-20 minutes.

Lemon & Peas Pasta
inspired by Cuisine at Home, February 2012
Serves 4

2 cups dry fregola and orzo pastas
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
Salt and black pepper

Cook pastas in salted water according to package directions; drain.

Stir peas, butter and zest into pasta; season with salt and pepper.

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The minced vegetable mixture reduces as it dries in the saucepan. Smell the great rosemary and garlic as the mix intensifies. Tomato paste and a bit of red wine deepen the flavors even more. Mashing this cooled mix with a whole stick of butter feels a bit sinister, but what you’re actually doing is creating a “compound butter,” a bold, powerful force in the kitchen.

Next: pound the chicken. I made a makeshift “mallet” to flatten the chicken breasts, placing a breast in a plastic bag on a towel, covering it with a cutting board, then using a good-old hammer to slam the top, until the breast was flatter than before. After my compound butter chilled for 30 minutes, I stuffed the flattened breasts with it, then refrigerated the rolled packages for another two hours.

After this, there’s the dredging and breading, followed by another two hours of chilling.

Finally, the cooking. It was fun to fry the chicken packets first, then set them on a rack in a pan in the oven at a high temp of 450 degrees. My chicken reached its 165-degree mark after 14 minutes.

I included the pasta recipe so you could see how easy it is to pull together an appropriate side dish, here. Perfect components include little pasta pieces, green peas, butter, and lemon zest and juice. It’s one of these “no-brainers.”

PRICES
Cremini Mushrooms (.28 lb.) = .92¢
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (1.77 lbs.) = $8.11
Meyer Lemon = .49¢

RECIPES: pace your whole day around these stuffed chicken breasts, and elevate this meat into a flavorful meal
PREP TIMES:
chicken prep time will stretch across six hours (a lot of chilling time); pasta takes only a few minutes
TASTES:
rosemary, garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, and red wine make an intense paste, mashed into butter, which provides the moist surprise in the center of these rolled up chicken breasts, crunchy with their “deep-fried” exteriors

Next time, I will remain in the chicken sphere, and make the “Chicken Mushroom Meatloaf,” from allrecipes.com (where I’ll use some dry cereal and buttermilk in the mix), along with the “Kale & Goat Cheese Mashed Sweet Potatoes,” from veggiebelly.com. See another wonderful meal when you come back to my site soon.