Stuffed Chicken Breast

November 26, 2010

I must sound like a spokesperson for the Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, but I swear I’m not. My latest recipe from this cookbook is Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Chicken cordon bleu is one of those things that was always on the menu 20 years ago. And you always got a really bad version of it banquets. So I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this recipe.

Filling:

1 tbsp butter

1 small onion, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp minced thyme

2 ounces cheddar, shredded

4 slices deli ham

Chicken:

1 (5-6 oz) chicken skinless boneless chicken breasts

3/4 cup flour

2 eggs

1 tbsp plus 3/4 cup vegetable oil

4 slices white bread, made into coarse crumbs and dried

Melt the butter and add onion and cook 15-20 min. Add garlic and cook 20 seconds.

Mix the cream cheese with a mixer until fluffy, 1 minute. Stir in the onion mixture and add thyme and cheddar and salt and pepper to taste.

Butterfly the chicken and then pound it to 1/4 inch thickness. Place the chicken smooth side down and spread with 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Salt and pepper it. Place 1 slice ham on top. Roll up the cutlet from the tapered end, folding in the edges to form a neat cylinder. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450. Beat egg with 1 tbsp oil. Dip chicken in flour, egg, then breadcrumbs. Place on a wire rack and let it rest 5 min.

Heat 3/4 cup oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat until shimmery. Add the chicken, seam side down, and cook 2 min until golden. Turn and cook the other side 2-3 minutes. Transfer seam side down to a baking sheet and baked at 450 about 15 min until the center is 165 degrees.

Wow. It really worked. The chicken had an incredible crunchy outside and a divine creamy center. A couple of things I would do differently: I would use less cream cheese and more of some other cheese. It was a little bland. I would also use less oil for the pan frying aspect of this. Other than that, I highly recommend this recipe!

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Martha’s Greatest Hits

October 14, 2010

In celebration of the two year mark for this blog, I’ve gone back through every recipe of Martha’s I’ve cooked and put together a list of the best of the best (with links!). It was quite an eye opening experience. Apparently, I am a fan of dips! I also didn’t realize quite how many Martha recipes I’ve cooked. Over 600. That’s pretty amazing. So I guess you could say I’ve really become a de facto expert. Of those 600, there were some that were simply awful. The most memorable of those for me would be that awful chocolate pudding made with avocado and the no bake brownies. Truly disgusting. A lot of things fall into the ok, but not memorable category. Some were good, but not great. What I’ve tried to do here is list the things that I think were fantastic.

I expected that the list might be more diverse than it is. The most exotic and hardest to make thing on the list is the Croquembouche. The things that were most memorable for me were the Thanksgiving turkey, perfect roast chicken, spatchcocked chicken, stuffed cabbage, rolled omelet, Baked Alaska, and rice pudding. I’d forgotten about many of these recipes until I went back through the blog, but once I saw the posts, it all came back to me.

I was struck by the fact that most of these things are homey, traditional foods. There’s not a lot here that would make people gasp at a dinner party (until they tasted it and realized how good these recipes are). I don’t know if that means Martha is best when she sticks to the basics or if I’m boring and just like traditional foods (I don’t think that’s the case  though- I love to try new things). Some of the recipes are not true Martha (well, as true Martha as something can be when she employees tens of thousands of people to do everything for her), some are from Lucinda Scala Quinn and one is from Emeril, but they all appeared in Martha’s magazines or on her show, so I’ve included them.

Enjoy Martha’s greatest hits!

Soups

Cream of Broccoli Soup This is a go-to recipe for me that I’ve made over and over. It’s simple, tasty and my kids love it.

Corn and Shrimp Chowder Simple and delicious.

Roasted Fall Vegetable Soup This one is recent, but I liked it so much I’ll do it again.

Dips

Artichoke Dip with Fontina I love dip. And cheese. And artichoke.

Bean Dip I really love dip.

Caramelized Onion Dip with Fingerling Potatoes Dip plus potatoes is as good as it gets!

Seafood

Shrimp and Zucchini Tostadas I love the ease of this recipe and it’s very adaptable to whatever you have in the fridge.

Golden Crab and Papaya Salad The flavors in this were amazing and it was beautiful to serve.

Seafood Bake This one surprised me with how good it was and how much it was to make.

Mr. Jim’s Shrimp To die for! The best shrimp ever.

Poultry

Perfect Roast Chicken This is a recipe everyone needs!

Thanksgiving Turkey I’ll be using Martha’s recipe again this year, although it seems she is no longer selling turkeys.

Spatchcocked Chicken Thank you Lucinda for the amazing sauce that goes with this.

Chicken, Spinach Casserole This one is recent, but memorable. Simple and much more fab than it sounds.

Tortilla Pie with Chicken Delicious! Great flavors.

Other Entrees

Mrs. Kostyra’s Meatloaf Who knew meatloaf could be so much fun?

Emeril’s Meatloaf Apparently Emeril knew meatloaf could be fun because his is fantastic too! This is actually a turkey meatloaf.

Lamb Chops with Citrus Sauce This one is an elegant dish.

Marinated Steak Thank you Lucinda. Easy and delicious way to make inexpensive cuts of meat taste great.

Sides

Spanish Rice I need to make this again.

Green Bean Casserole Surprisingly great! But very rich!

Baked Onion Rings I forgot about this and will be making it again soon!

Tomato Hand Pies Another one I forgot about, but something to remember when I have some wonderful tomatoes to use.

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese Incredible! Not a combo I expected to like, but I really did.

Potato Gratin A basic, but simply amazing.

Rolled Omelet So easy and so delicious! I was hooked on this one for weeks after I first made, making it in the toaster oven!

Irish Soda Bread I like my version a lot, but Martha’s is quite good too!

Stuffed Cabbage Something I never thought I would like!

Desserts

Double Chocolate Brownies Ah, brownies….

Croquembouche Impressive! Boy was I proud of this one.

Icebox Cake Surprisingly delish! And tres retro.

Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies Dude Martha’s fave!

Mrs. Kostyra’s Spice Cake Close to my wedding cake but not quite, but still excellent!

Baked Alaska A friend of Teen Martha’s still talks about how good this was.

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes I need to make these again – amazing.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies I’m going to make these for Christmas again.

Genoise Something I never thought I’d try and it was great.

Rice Pudding This is now a staple in my house and I make it often.

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite Martha recipes that you go back to time and time again? Have you made any of the ones I’ve listed? Do these appeal to you?

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Edible Roasting Rack

March 16, 2010

On page 50 of March Martha Stewart Living, there are instructions for creating an edible roasting rack for chicken. Basically you rip up a baguette and put it on the bottom of your roasting pan with some garlic and thyme. Brush the chicken with some butter and put some thyme under the skin, and place the chicken on the bread and roast it. I have to say I sort of scoffed at this initially, but it wasn’t bad. The biggest problem was that any bread that was not directly beneath the chicken burned to a crisp and was inedible. The bread that stayed under the chicken was delicious, and probably really bad for you! It was crunchy and greasy and really, really, really tasty. That being said, I don’t see myself doing this again. I felt WAY too guilty eating bread soaked in chicken grease and there wasn’t anything convenient or easier about this compared to a regular roasting rack.

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Chicken with Couscous and Tomatoes

January 5, 2009

Yesterday we spent the day taking down the decorations, which is an all day job. I needed something easy for dinner, but I’m so very tired of eating bad food that I wanted something tasty and definitely did not want takeout. I decided to go with Martha’s Chicken with Israeli Couscous from page 118 of January Living.

First confession – I didn’t have Israeli couscous, so I used regular. It’s next to impossible to find Israeli couscous in this neck of the woods, although I do like it. Second confession, I used leftover chicken. I brought some chicken home from a holiday dinner the other night. I simply deconstructed it (it was wrapped in filo with cream cheese, spinach and a little crab) and added it to this recipe at the end to get it warm.

chick-cousSince I cheated and used regular couscous and pre-cooked chicken, this dish came together in a flash. All I did was simmer some tomatoes with garlic, onion, lemon juice, chicken stock, and white wine until it was coming together. Third confession – I don’t have any saffron, so I had to skip adding that. Then I dumped in the couscous and waited for that to set up. At the end, I added the chicken breasts and peas. Very simple.

I thought it tasted great. I’m a big fan of couscous and I loved the tomatoey sauce this made with it. I would definitely make this dish again.


Cooking School #4: Chicken Piccata

November 18, 2008

I’ve only completed half of this cooking school lesson so far. Martha and Sarah Carey made chicken piccata (to demonstrate sauteing) and then an Indian spice yogurt marinaded chicken that was pan-fried. I’ll get to the second one at a future date (or not since I’m not a big fan of spicy Indian food).

Cutlets

Cutlets

The first step in this

Cutlets pounded

Cutlets pounded

was to make chicken cutlets. I must confess, I never knew what that was really! I just thought it was a chicken breast that was pounded thin. I had no idea you were supposed to cut it in half, to reduce the thickness. Color me ignorant on that. I was a little apprehensive about cutting the breasts in half, but it was super easy. They came out evenly and there was no anxiety necessary!

Next you are supposed to pound the cutlets to make them thin. Martha uses a metal mallet. My mom always used the side of a wooden tenderizer mallet and that’s what I use too (don’t worry – I cover the breasts in plastic so the wood does not get contaminated – no salmonella for this family). This was no problem to do either.

Cooking.....

Cooking.....

I coated the breasts in the seasoned flour and cooked them in the oil and butter. No problem there either. They cooked really quickly. Once done, I removed them and added the wine, lemon juice, capers and parsley.

This was super simple,

Feelin' saucy

Feelin

super quick, and super tasty! I have never had chicken piccata before – I guess I thought it sounded boring. I’ve also never eaten capers before. I thought they were like olives (which I

A gorgeous dish

A gorgeous dish

don’t like) so I’ve always avoided them. I have to say, they gave a nice flavor as long as you didn’t eat too many at a time.  I love how the chicken was nicely browned and kind of crunchy. This one’s a good thing! Thanks Martha!

A Side Note

As a side note, I want to mention that I made Martha’s matzoh ball soup (from the Cooking School book) earlier this week. I was sick as a dog and didn’t manage to take any photos. Basically I made chicken soup like I always do (this time I threw in some of the leftover celery root and parsnips from Cooking School lesson 3 – the braised pork shoulder). Her matzoh balls are different than the recipe on the side of the matzoh can. I must confess the first time I ever even tried this kind of soup was last year, so I’m a newbie at this. Martha has you whip the egg whites separately. This did make the dough lighter. I liked their flavor, but found it was hard to get them to come out very round. Mine were all lop-sided and disturbed looking. They tasted great though. So that one gets a thumbs up too.

My December issue of Living recently came in the mail, so I’ll be moving forward to projects from there soon. That issue is a little intimidating – everything is so over the top. I also have Martha’s holiday special issues for both food and crafts and will be using those as well. Christmas is really creeping up on us. I’m looking forward to having a Martha Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I feel as though Martha is helping me pay attention to details more than I normally would, which I am appreciating.


Cooking School #2

November 5, 2008

Martha’s second cooking school segment was about chicken.  She and Sarah Carey showed how to cut up a whole chicken. They emphasized how much cheaper it is to buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself, rather than buying parts. This is absolutely true, but it’s nothing I would ever have done myself. I have been buying organic meat exclusively for about the last six months and my grocery store only has whole chickens or breasts. I have been wishing they carried other combos and parts, but I never did think about actually cutting up a whole chicken myself.

Chicken Fingers

I must confess, I really, really, really hate to touch raw chicken. The idea of cutting up a whole chicken was just about more than I could handle. We do eat meat, but I can’t think too much about it to be honest. I search out free range and pasture fed animals that have been well cared for and we eat less meat than we used to.

Mr. MarthaandMe is the one who carves chickens and turkeys in this family and agreed to be on standby in case I totally freaked out or cut off a thumb. I am proud to report to you though that I did it with no mishaps!

Cuts Like a Knife

I got out a plastic board, my big chef knife and a towel I designated “the chicken towel”. I opened up Cooking School next to me so I could follow along.

On the show, Sarah Carey cut it the way it is described in the book. I have no idea what the hell Martha was doing during this episode. She was totally showing off, hacking through her chicken with a pair of scissors, leaping steps ahead of Sarah so we could all see that she knew what she was doing. Geesh! Sarah’s steps were really pretty clear. The description and photos in the book were not as good as the episode when you could see Sarah actually pulling the joints apart. I wish I had had it on while I was doing it so I could see her do it, pause it, then do it myself.

Removing the leg

Removing the leg

So I started in. First was the leg. I cut through the skin then had to cut down to the joint. I did that then had to pull to pop it out. Ew. This was not pleasant and I might have gotten a little

Wings

Wings

squeamish. I did manage to do it though. The trick is pulling it apart enough so you can see where the joint is, and then cutting between the joint and the body of the chicken. Then I cut the leg and thigh apart. Next I got the wings off – these were easy compared to the legs.

Hacking the breast from the back was not for the faint of heart. Mr. MarthaandMe encouraged me from the sidelines as I looked up in panic a few

Removing breast from back

Removing breast from back

times. Somehow I managed to hack through it and got it apart. This was about just using sheer force – it was not easy, I was not enjoying it and I just kept going. I have no idea if I cut it where I was supposed to since I was just hacking through bone. Separating the breasts was harder than it looked too. The book said to use the heel of your knife to crack the backbone. No clue what that means.  Finally I just snapped it with my hands.I had to trim the breasts a bit – there was some big nasty skin hanging off

Cutting the breast

Cutting the breast

from them. Once I did that, I had a nice tray of chicken though.

My Reaction

I was really intimidated by this, having never cut up a chicken in my life. It was not fun and I admit I washed my hands 6 times throughout the process (OCD, anyone?). However, being able to have

Success!

Success!

organic chicken in the pieces I want it in is a pretty powerful motivator. Martha’s right about this being a way to save money. I would rather buy it already cut up (and pay more to avoid having to do this), but since that’s not an option, I guess I would consider doing this again. Or maybe I’ll just delegate this job to Mr. MarthaandMe!

The Recipe

Now that I had my chicken cut up, I had to do something with it for dinner. I decided to go with Martha’s buttermilk fried chicken recipe from the Cooking School book. Let me say here that we vacationed in Hilton Head, SC

Eating Paula's Chicken in 2006

Paula's Chicken

a couple of summers ago and we had the pleasure of dining at Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons in Savannagh where I had the most perfect fried chicken known to man. After that trip, I spent months trying to perfect fried chicken and settled on Paula’s recipe with some minor modifications. Paula says you have to use self-rising flour. I agree. I discovered fried chicken turns out best if you double dip it (egg, flour, egg, then flour). I usually use a mix of peanut oil and Crisco (yes, I know you’re not supposed to mix oils). Mr. MarthaandMe got me a deep fryer for Mother’s Day this year and now I use that. I learned to cook the heck out of it or it will be bloody inside and brown on the outside. I also learned it tastes better if you let it rest before eating it. It’s also excellent the next day.

Paula does not recommend soaking in buttermilk. Martha does – then wants you to let the chicken sit out and dry a bit. Paula uses egg wash, Martha doesn’t. Martha adds cornmeal to her coating, Paula does not.

Martha's chicken

Martha's chicken

To be true to my Martha experiment, I cooked the chicken according to Martha’s instructions. This chicken cooked very quickly, and turned very brown. I don’t know if that had to do with the coating or maybe because I was using an organic chicken which was also a bit small.

The crust was tasty. I liked the crunch the cornmeal added. However, the skin didn’t really cook and was all mushy and fatty underneath the coating in some places. I didn’t feel as though the buttermilk marinade made much of a difference. I’m definitely going back to Paula’s recipe. Sorry Martha, but you’re not a Southern gal. It was fun to experiment with a different recipe, but Paula really knows her stuff!


Light Chicken Parmesan

October 24, 2008

It was a Monday night and I needed something quick and simple for dinner. Mondays are a busy day here and I often work right up until dinner time, leaving me little time to cook. What Would Martha Do? A recipe from Everyday Food for light chicken parm seemed like it should fit the bill for this. I actually found this on the web site, not in the mag.

The first hurdle with the recipe is something that’s not in the recipe – or any recipe for that matter. Defrosting the chicken. While it’s nice to use fresh meat, I don’t often plan my meals out in advance, so I don’t have fresh chicken sitting in the fridge, singing a little chicken song to itself and waiting happily to be used.

I find defrosting to be a challenge. You have to be careful to do it slowly so it doesn’t cook the edges, but you do have to get it to defrost fully. Nothing is worse than that gross white cooked edges you get. What I usually do is defrost it most of the way, then let it just sit in the microwave for about 10 or 15 minutes and it seems to do the rest itself. That’s my tip for the day, folks. Genius, I know.

Homemade Wheat Breadcrumbs

Homemade Wheat Breadcrumbs

Ok, to get down to business I had to first make the breadcrumbs. Normally I just use a store brand Italian breadcrumb mix, but Martha dictates the use of pieces of wheat bread ground up with some salt and pepper, oil and parm cheese. I do like the idea of using up some old bread crusts and I always prefer whole wheat to white, however having to get the Cuisinart dirty is a pain. There’s never room in the dishwasher for that darn thing. I usually avoid it like the plague. I do think this breadcrumb mixture needed some herbs, but Martha did not suggest them.

Ready for the Oven

Ready for the Oven

The most exciting idea in this recipe is the directive to only bread one side of the chicken breasts. I never thought of doing this, but it is brilliant. It cuts calories and you do not notice the difference.

My chicken breasts did not cook in the time specified – 10 to 12 minutes. Granted, I used organic chicken and I find it does take longer. At 9 minutes it was raw inside and getting almost burned on the outside. I switched to convection at 375 degrees and cooked it another 10 minutes and it was perfect.

Voila!

Voila!

The breading did not taste as crisp as I normally would like. I usually pan fry my chicken parm with a little olive oil, so I did miss that a little, but this is a nice light alternative.

I confess I used a jar of spaghetti sauce that was sitting already opened in the fridge (I know, so not Martha)instead of making the tomato sauce in the recipe. On a Monday night I would much rather do that, not to mention my 10 year old would much prefer something from a jar.

All in all, I would call this recipe a good thing. My biggest takeaway from it is the idea of breading only one side. Thanks Martha.

What Martha recipes do you suggest for a busy weeknight?


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