Friday, April 10, 2009

Ever-popular Pesto-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

If you have ever found yourself eating hors d'oeuvres at a high-end function, you may have noticed some version of these little guys being passed around. There’s a perfectly good reason for their popularity: they are absolutely delectable.

Whether you follow this recipe to the letter or borrow tidbits here and there, you will make a lot of friends with this low-carb, low-fat, easy-to-make classic. They are always a crowd favorite, whether as appetizers or as an entree, and appeal to just about every palate.

You can buy traditional pesto sauce in a jar, or make it from scratch:

Pesto alla Genovese

3 medium cloves garlic
3 cups fresh basil leaves
¾ cup fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ¼ cup Parmigiana Reggiano
Preheat the oven to 350F, and roast the pine nuts for 5 minutes, until golden brown (alternate method – toast the pine nuts in a sauté pan, but be very careful not to burn them).
Puree the garlic in a food processor, then add the pine nuts and herbs and spin them until just chopped. With the blades running, slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. May be made up to a week ahead of time. When ready to use, add the cheese and process until well mixed.

Pesto-Stuffed Chicken Breasts


2 sticks (1 cup) butter (roughly)

1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (see above)

2 bunches of spinach, cleaned and stems removed

4-5 shallots, finely chopped

¾ cup ricotta cheese

2 egg yolks

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

5-6 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half

5-6 whole boneless chicken breasts, cut in half and flattened out¼ cup lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 375F. Line the bottom of a baking pan with butter and set aside.

Steam the spinach for 1-3 minutes. You can easily do this by tossing the freshly rinsed spinach into a large pan, covering and heating over medium heat. Then remove the pan from the heat and add ice water to shock the spinach and stop it from continuing to cook. Wring the spinach dry with a clean towel and chop medium-fine.

Put a little butter and the shallots into a sauté pan and cook over medium heat until translucent.

Combine the spinach, shallots, pine nuts, ricotta cheese, pesto sauce egg yolks, pepper and ¼ cup of butter in a large bowl, and taste for seasoning. Place a piece of prosciutto on each breast, then spread the pesto mixture evenly over each breast. Fold each breast over in half and place in the baking dish.

Mix together the lemon juice with an equal portion of melted butter, and baste over each breast. Put the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, basting occasionally with the juices that drip into the pan.

When it’s done, allow to set for 5-10 minutes. Then cut each breast on a bias into ½-inch pieces and serve, either as an entrée or on a platter as an hors d'oeuvre. You can stick a toothpick into each piece to hold it together.

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