Ricotta-stuffed Chicken Breasts with Verjuice

3:10 pm on 21 December 2012

Everyone in my family loves this moist and tasty chicken. And it looks glamorous, too, though it’s not that much work. Just be sure to buy chicken breasts with the skin still on.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 200g ricotta
  • 3 Tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary, plus 4 sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 free-range boned chicken breasts, skin on
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup white verjuice

Method

1 In a bowl mix ricotta, breadcrumbs, garlic, chopped rosemary, ½ a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

2 Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels. Slip a finger between the skin and meat to make a pocket. Spread ricotta mixture over meat, then pull skin over ricotta to cover it. Tie with string, enclosing a rosemary sprig with each breast. The chicken breast can be prepared ahead of time but bring to room temperature before cooking, or the timing of the cooking will be out.

3 Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat and drop in 2 tablespoons of butter. Once it is sizzling, add chicken breasts, skin side down. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until a good golden brown, then turn them over and lower the heat. Cook for 10 minutes until browned and nearly cooked through (the centre of the breasts will still be tinged with pink).

4 Pour verjuice around chicken breasts and cover pan with a lid (or use tin foil or a large plate). Cook for a further 5 minutes, or until breasts are barely tinged with pink in the centre (they will finish cooking as they stand). Transfer chicken breasts to a heated platter.

5 Add remaining butter to the pan and swirl it in by shaking the pan. Pour it over the chicken breasts and serve immediately.

Variation

I love these chicken breasts the way they are, but my family also love mortadella so for Christmas day I am going to add mortadella to the ricotta stuffing, to make the dish more special.

I need to cook 6 chicken breasts so I am going to add 100g thinly sliced, finely chopped mortadella. To cook 6 chicken breasts at once, choose small, free-range chicken breasts. You will need a large pan. Alternatively, brown the chicken breasts in two medium-sized frying pans, then transfer all of them to one of the pans and carry on with recipe. (If you only have one medium-sized frying pan, brown them in two batches). When you alter recipes, you do need to make some adjustments!

Mortadella: This is a specialty sausage from Bologna, Italy, traditionally made form pure pork. It has a captivating aroma, spicy and savoury, and a sweet, mildy spicy flavour. Seasoning can include pepper, pistachio, myrtle berries, garlic, anise, and coriander - a captivating mix - and approved additions include broken green pistachio nuts, green olives and peppercorns. Available in sizes from 500g to 100kg!!! That’s a big Mamma of a sausage!

The large ones can be about 10 feet (3 metres) long by 2 feet (60 cm) wide. But, to be machine cut, the sausage can't be more than 14 inches (35 cm) wide; anything wider than that has to be cut by hand.

I have seen an enormous mortadella sausage in Bologna, displayed on a stand in the street, and it was quite a spectacle. It didn’t appeal to me to eat though!

Mortadella is generally sliced very thinly and seems at its most fragrant that way, but it can also be cubed for antipasto nibbles or to add to salads or pasta sauces.

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm

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