Singin’ the Blueberries

by Kelly on June 30, 2009   

Ode to the fresh blueberry, and the chevre-stuffed chicken

An ode to the fresh blueberry, with ricotta- or chevre-stuffed chicken -- by the way, this recipe is easy and only takes 25 minutes

Sometimes the best food you cook comes from a desperate attempt to use up ingredients at their peak rather than sliding past that “over” date. This recipe, chicken breasts stuffed with either ricotta or goat cheese and smothered in fresh blueberries, is one of those. There were those perfect, amazing blueberries, and right then they were delicious. Didn’t have ice cream for them or eggs to make muffins, didn’t have enough for a pie and anyway, this was dinner I was after, not dessert! There was ricotta, left from a something-or-other I’d made, and some pricey boned, skinned chicken breasts. And the chevre was of such a small amount no one was bothering it. All had to be used — I could hear the clock ticking.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are tricky, and can be dry if not cooked correctly. So, I thought I’d get around that by making a pocket in each one and stuffing them with either ricotta and fresh basil or goat cheese and sage. I considered a piccata-finish-with-lemon approach but there were blueberries. A sweet sauce to go with the mild, soft cheese and herb stuffing. Well, why not?

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Cheese & Herbs
with Fresh Blueberry Sauce | 6 servings

Look for medium-sized chicken breasts — too small and it’s tricky to make a pocket, too large and they take too long to cook.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt
1/3 cup flour
Pinch of herbs de Provence
Pinch of salt
Several grinds black pepper
3 ounces chevre (goat’s milk cheese with the texture of cream cheese) or 3 ounces fresh ricotta
12 sage leaves (for the chevre stuffing) or 12 basil leaves (for the ricotta stuffing)
Drizzle of olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 heaping cup fresh blueberries
1 heaping teaspoon red jam of any kind

Trim the fillet or “tender” — the smaller muscle that is often only partially attached — from the breast. Save the fillets aside to grill or sauté for sandwiches another time. (Some fillets have a tough, white tendon running its length which can be scraped or trimmed from the meat by holding it firmly at one end while running a knife under it.)

The "tenders" aren't used in this dish but can be cooked quickly and used on sandwiches or in pasta

The "tenders" aren't used in this dish but can be cooked quickly and used on sandwiches or in pasta

Lay the breast flat on a cutting board and cut into the thick side of the breast, keeping the knife parallel to the board and making sure with your hand that the knife is cutting evenly between the top and bottom.

Start toward the top of the thickest side, and cut a pocket without cutting all the way through to the other side

Make the cut in the the top half of the thickest side, and cut a pocket without cutting all the way through to the other side

Sweep the knife up toward the top of the breast, cutting parallel to the board but without cutting through the other side

Sweep the knife up toward the top of the breast, cutting parallel to the board but without cutting through the other side

Use your fingers to sense how far the knife is cutting into the breast. You can also see the knife through the translucent meat, so watch that the tip doesn’t cut through.

Fresh ricotta, a plain goat cheese roll and an herbed cheese

Fresh ricotta, a plain goat cheese roll and an herbed chevre

Sprinkle a little salt inside the pockets. Stuff each pocket with 2 thin “slices” of goat cheese, the equivalent of a couple of tablespoons. It’s soft, so don’t bother trying to measure. Use your fingers to push the cheese into all corners of the pocket. If you’re using ricotta, a spoon may be easier to push the cheese into the pocket. Again, use about 2 tablespoons per breast.

Don't worry if it's a slightly messy process -- just try to spread it evenly around the inside of the pocket

Don't worry if it's a slightly messy process -- just try to spread it evenly around the inside of the pocket

Push two herb leaves into the pockets, spreading them out as flat as possible. I like pairing the more assertive goat cheese with sage and the mild ricotta with basil.

Use larger leaves of sage or of basil -- shown here is a sage leaf, the other one is pushed far down into the narrow part of the breast

Use larger leaves of sage or of basil -- shown here is a sage leaf, the other one will get pushed far down into the narrow part of the breast

Use a toothpick to close the pocket opening.

The toothpick should be removed before you serve the chicken

The toothpick should be removed before you serve the cooked chicken

Mix the flour, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper on a plate.

Use your fingers to mix this up

Use your fingers to mix this up

Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, coating well.

Press the flour into the chicken, but gently tap off the excess

Press the flour into the chicken, but gently tap off the excess

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes per side, until golden. Reduce the heat to medium-low, pour in the chicken broth, cover, and cook very gently another 5 minutes, turning once as it cooks.

The little bit of flour will make a slightly thickened pan juice, and give the chicken a glossy coating

The little bit of flour will make a slightly thickened pan juice, and gives the chicken a glossy coating

Remove the chicken to a plate and cover until ready for serving. Turn the heat back up under the pan juices and reduce the liquid for about a minute. Add the blueberries.

Add the berries to the burbling pan juices

The berries have been quickly rinsed before adding

Stir the berries as they cook until they begin to pop and give up color, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the red jam. Pour the sauce over the cooked chicken, evenly distributing the blueberries. I garnished mine with a little thyme sprig on each serving.

Makes me think of that scene in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory when Violet Beauregarde chews the blueberry pie gum -- the sauce will turn the most delightful purple

Makes me think of that scene in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory when Violet Beauregarde chews the blueberry pie gum -- the sauce will turn the most delightful purple

Aren’t blueberries wonderful?

Sing a song of blueberries

Sing a song of blueberries

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Caryn July 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Kelly,

This looks great. And I just got a pint of blueberries. Any good recipes for kale?

akmccune August 30, 2009 at 1:12 pm

I love the recipe for cookies because I need a cookie every day at least once. Tell Karyn there are no good recipes for kale.

Kelly September 1, 2009 at 10:39 am

Watch for some kale ideas coming soon…

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