I came up with this recipe while I was running errands last week. I had been thinking about a recipe we used to make that called for cutting pockets in boneless chicken breasts and filling them with a mixture of sautéed onions, rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese.
The chicken always sounded so much better than it turned out. I never let the onions cool long enough, resulting in a melting goo of goat cheese and sticky tomatoes that I wrestled to fit into the too-small chicken pockets. And I never diced the tomatoes small enough, so the chicken was full of chewy, assertive sun-dried tomato chunks. Despite the issues, we liked the flavors and I wanted to duplicate them in a format that appealed to us more.
I started with making a sun-dried tomato pesto instead of using chopped sun-dried tomatoes. That worked beautifully. I decided to use caramelized shallots instead of sautéed onions, for a mellower flavor. The goat cheese I kept the same, though I reduced the amount, to keep its sharpness from taking over the dish. I flattened and pounded the chicken, then spread on the filling ingredients before rolling it up. This worked much better than cutting pockets. The end result was everything I had envisioned – tender chicken wrapped around thin layers of tomato pesto, sprinkled here and there with pockets of sharp goat cheese and sweet shallots.
If you follow along regularly you read Monday’s post on caramelized shallots and Wednesday’s post about sun-dried tomato pesto. And if you are a loyal and obedient follower, you made each of these recipes the day I posted them. Now you are ready to make today’s chicken recipe.
Seriously, though, I made both the caramelized shallots and the sun-dried tomato pesto right before I made the chicken. Would I recommend this? Probably not, but it is certainly doable. Just be sure to factor in the time required when you are deciding what time to start. We didn’t eat dinner that night until 7:30, despite my best intentions. Nothing about the recipes is difficult, but you can’t exactly hurry the shallot caramelization process, unless you want to turn it into the shallot burning process.
To simplify things, you can make the shallots and pesto earlier in the day, or a few days ahead of time. The recipe will be a piece of cake if you already have the shallots and sun-dried tomato pesto waiting for you in the fridge.
Chicken Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Goat Cheese
From The Cook’s Life
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
3-4 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto (homemade or purchased)
2 caramelized shallots (about ¼ cup cooked shallots), or more to taste
¼ cup minced onion or shallot, sautéed until soft
2 ounces goat cheese, thinly sliced or crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup white wine or water
Gallon-size zip lock bag
Meat mallet, rolling pin or heavy skillet
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a medium casserole dish (8-inch square, 11 by 7 inch or equivalent). Set aside.
Trim any visible fat and gristle from chicken breasts.
Working with one breast at a time, using your sharpest knife, partially separate tenderloin from breast and open it up from the main part of the breast like a book (the tenderloin is on the left side of the picture above).
Start to cut into the thickest portion of the breast, across from the tenderloin side, opening it like a book as you go (the tenderloin is now on the right side in the picture above). If you start to get too close to cutting all the way through, change the direction of your knife to get back into the meat. Open the two sections of chicken like a book. You should have a large flat piece of chicken.
If necessary, cut into thicker parts of chicken, almost all the way through, to make as large and as thin a piece of chicken as possible. Let the shape of the chicken breast guide you. It might look kind of strange (see above), but when you pound it, the chicken will flatten into one big piece.
Place each breast in the zip lock bag, one at a time, and pound gently with the meat mallet, rolling pin or skillet. You want to make the meat a little thinner and tenderize it, but you don’t have to pulverize it.
Place each flattened breast, pretty side down, on a plate. Set out your sun-dried tomato pesto, shallots and goat cheese next to the plate. Have the baking dish next to your workspace. Have a few toothpicks handy, just in case you need them. You don’t want to have to search for ingredients once your hands are contaminated with raw chicken.
Spread each breast with about a tablespoon of tomato pesto, getting as close to the edge as possible. Divide shallots evenly between breasts. Top with slices or crumbles of goat cheese.
One at a time, roll each breast up long ways, like a cinnamon roll or pinwheel cookie. Place each breast in the prepared casserole dish, seam side down. If chicken won’t stay rolled, secure with a toothpick or two.
Drizzle chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour white wine or water in the bottom of the dish.
Bake breasts for about 30 minutes, uncovered, until chicken is cooked all the way through and tops are starting to lightly brown. Let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Leftovers reheat well in the microwave.