This recipe is a fantastic way to put your ordinary chicken breast in it’s Sunday best. In fact, I recently served this elegant chicken at a dinner party that I catered. The chicken breasts are stuffed with a succulent mixture of cremini mushrooms and goat cheese, seared, and then finished in the oven and doused with a shallot pan sauce before serving. The chicken stays moist from the stuffing inside, gentle cooking from a sear-roasting technique, and little pats of butter that help baste the chicken as it finishes in the oven.
A couple things are important in order to execute this correctly. First, both the goat cheese and sauteed mushroom mixture need to be at room temperature when you mix the two together. If the goat cheese is right out of the fridge, it won’t spread and combine with the mushrooms. And if the mushrooms are straight out of the saute pan, they’ll melt the cheese.
Next comes preparing the chicken. This step might seem counter-intuitive since we’re stuffing the breasts, but it’s important to pound out the breasts with the flat side of a meat tenderizer first. This is because the breasts are going to be seared, to get the gorgeous and extremely flavorful browned exterior that you want. And chicken breasts straight out of the package or off the bird aren’t flat. You want them flat for two reasons, to maximize the surface area in contact with the pan when searing and also to ensure each breast cooks evenly and finishes cooking through in the same amount of time. If one end is thin and one thick, guess which end is dry by the time the whole breast is cooked through. But we’re not making cutlets here, so don’t be overzealous with the pounder. Hit the gym if you’ve had a really bad day and come back to the chicken later.
Next make pockets. Do this using a sharp (sharp is key) pairing knife. Lay one one hand on top of the chicken and use the other to carefully cut a slit into but not all the way through each breast, to form a pocket for the stuffing. Stuff generously with a good 2 Tbs of the mushroom-goat cheese mixture per breast, but don’t over-stuff to the point that the breasts become rounded or overly full. We still want them to be relatively flat for searing.
Those of you who follow me know I love my cast-iron pan. It’s got to be the most-used pan I own. A cast-iron pan produces the most beautiful sear on this chicken without any issues of the meat sticking to the pan. If you don’t have one of these yet, know that I spotted them at Target recently for a mere $18. So next, pat the chicken dry with paper towels, season both sides with salt and pepper and sear the breasts 3-4 minutes per side in canola oil using your heated cast-iron pan. Canola oil has a higher smoke point than olive oils, making it ideal for searing meat. When the chicken is nice and brown on both sides, remove it to a plate.
At this point you use the browned bits in the cast iron pan to make a pan sauce. Add shallots or sliced onions to the pan, and use the liquid they release to de-glaze. Then add the wine and again scrape the bottom of the pan to release any remaining browned bits. With the addition of chicken broth and a little cornstarch slurry (cornstarch dissolved in just enough water to be able to whisk it together) you have a delicious pan sauce. If you like, add a little fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar for some acidic freshness. All this can be done ahead, which is what made this dish perfect for a catered event.
Finally, in the spirit of giving this chicken every advantage in staying moist, spoon a couple ladelfuls of warm pan sauce into a baking dish. Then lay the chicken on top of the sauce. Put the pats of butter atop the chicken. Roast for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.
mushroom and goat cheese stuffed chicken with shallot pan sauce
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, rinsed, dried, finely diced
- salt/pepper/olive oil/canola oil
- 1 Tbs fresh thyme, minced
- 4 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 Tbs butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 1/2 large onion, sliced, or two large shallots
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth*
- 2 Tbs cornstarch slurry (whisk 2 Tbs cornstarch with 1/4 cup water to liquefy)
- 2 Tbs parsley, chopped
1. Heat pan over medium heat and add 2 Tbs olive oil. Add diced mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute to brown mushrooms until liquid in pan is evaporated. If mushrooms look dry during cooking add more olive oil. Stir in thyme and remove from heat. Taste and add salt/pepper if desired. Cool to room temperature.
2. Combine mushroom mixture and goat cheese in small bowl and mix together. Taste for seasoning and add salt/pepper if desired. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 400. Using a plastic freezer baggie or between two sheets of plastic wrap, gently pound out each chicken breast to flatten slightly. Using a sharp pairing knife, cut a slit in each breast to form a pocket for the stuffing, being careful not to cut all the way through. Stuff breast with a generous 2 Tbs mushroom-goat mixture. Do not overstuff (you may not need to use all the stuffing mixture depending on the size of your chicken breasts).
4. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Pat chicken dry on both sides with paper towels carefully, as not to push out the stuffing. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Add 2 Tbs canola oil to pan. Place breasts in pan and press down gently. Sear 3-4 minutes per side and remove to a plate. If any stuffing has fallen out into the pan, re-stuff it into breasts.
5. Add sliced shallots or onions to cast-iron pan. Use juices released to partially de-glaze pan. Add wine, de-glaze again and boil down by half. Add chicken broth and simmer 5 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch slurry, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add parsley.
6. Spoon 1-2 ladles of warm pan sauce into a baking dish. Lay chicken in baking dish. Place cubes of butter evenly spaced on top of chicken. Roast chicken 10-15 minutes or until done (juices should be clear and meat opaque) to finish cooking through.
7. Serve chicken with additional pan sauce spooned over.
Serves 2 as a main course.
Serve with orzo** or mashed potatoes and green vegetable. For this particular catered event I served the chicken over a celery root puree with roasted asparagus.
* For gluten-free, ensure chicken broth is gluten-free. Traditional Orzo pasta is not gluten-free.