When I was a child, one of my absolute favourite chicken dishes in the world was chicken Kiev. I can't really remember if Mum made it from scratch but I think so, because she tended to shun prepared and processed foods, which is an attitude that definitely rubbed off on me. Nowadays, what can pass as chicken Kiev in the frozen food aisle is an insult to the original dish as well as the poor chickens that gave up their lives to supply it.
I was going to make chicken Kievs yesterday, as I haven't made them in quite a while but when it came to it, I realized that I'd run out of butter! I had a quick peek in the fridge for possible alternative stuffings and decided on a blend of herbs and Italian cheeses. I think if this dish had an accent, it would be an Italian one, but an Italian who summered in France.
I served the breasts with the tenderloins on a bed of sauteed spinach and new potatoes. The ingredients in the stuffing produce what is a soft, fragrant sauce which gently oozes out when you cut into it. I always use free-range chicken, but I think that for this dish it's essential for a proper chickeny flavour.
Chicken Stuffed With Italian Cheeses and French Herbs
Serves 2, takes 45 minutes
2 free-range chicken breasts, off the bone, skin removed.
For the stuffing:
100g fresh ball mozzerella, chopped finely
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp pin nuts
1/2 sprig rosemary, needles pulled and finely chopped
1 sprig tarragon, finely chopped
2 cups panko or coarse breadcrumbs
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp free-range mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
juice 1/2 lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter (will help the olive oil brown the chicken)
Turn the oven on to 180C (350F) and mix the stuffing ingredients together well in a bowl.
Create a pocket in the chicken breast using a medium-sized, sharp, unserrated knife:
Lay the chicken breast, wide end toward you, smooth side up. Insert the tip of your knife into the end of the breast, about 1 cm (1/2") from the top side of the breast. use your other hand to hold the breast steady while you use the knife to create a pocket as big as possible, without too much back and forth motion and without breaking through to the outside. Take care to keep the opening as small as possible so that the filling doesn't leak out more than it has to. It sounds more difficult than it is, I promise.
Hold the chicken breasts almost like an empty sock and use a teaspoon to put half of the filling in each breast. Use your fingers to smooth the filling into every nook and cranny of the inside of the chicken breast and push out any air. Try to keep the filling about 1cm (1/2") from the opening and push closed.
Mix together the mayo, mustard and lemon juice and coat the breasts evenly in this mixture before coating well in seasoned breadcrumbs.
Heat the olive oil and butter in an oven-proof non-stick pan and test the temperature by dropping a few breadcrumbs into the pan, looking for an immediate but gentle sizzle.
Carefully add the chicken to the pan, skin-side down and leave to brown for 3-4 minutes before turning them over and putting the whole pan into the hot oven for 25 minutes.
Remove the breasts from the oven when golden and crisp and move to a plate to allow them to rest for ten minutes before serving.