Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Fresh Herbs Recipe Leave skin on chicken breasts to hold goat cheese mixture

Even the most creative, artistic chef's creation usually happens for a smart culinary reason.

One of the best examples I know of that fact is a chicken breast recipe I developed when I first opened Spago on Hollywood's Sunset Strip back in 1982, a dish that still holds up and tastes just as fresh and delicious today.

Chicken breasts, as the millions of people for whom the lean meat is a primary protein source these days know, can turn dry with cooking, and can taste bland even when still moist. But by stuffing chicken breasts under the skin with a moist filling, and serving them on top of a simple sauce, you can create a truly succulent and delicious main course.

Trying to figure out a creative way to achieve those goals back in 1982, I turned to goat cheese.

At the time, it was very trendy, though today you can find it in any well-stocked supermarket. People loved its creamy consistency and tangy taste, and it was already popular at Spago on pizzas, in pastas, and even sauteed on a mixed green salad.

So why not use it as a chicken breast stuffing?

I just crumbled the goat cheese and added some chopped fresh herbs and a little black pepper. (You could also flavor it with other ingredients that sound good to you, such as chili flakes, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, minced jalapeno chili, or slivered prosciutto.)

Roasting the chicken breasts quickly in a hot oven was the ideal way to cook them. Sauteing or grilling, after all, might disturb the skin and lead to a loss of the delicious stuffing.

While the chicken cooked, I had time to prepare a terrific, simple, fresh-tasting sauce, nothing more than an enhanced vinaigrette dressing. I quickly sauteed some golden, trumpet-shaped chanterelle mushrooms, a rarity at the time but now available in many markets. (If you like, you can use other fresh mushrooms, cut up if they're larger.) Then, after they cooled briefly, I tossed the mushrooms with sweet onion, more fresh herbs, oil, and vinegar.

With the sauce spooned onto individual serving plates and the roasted chicken breasts cut into halves and arranged on top, the result was a dish that appealed to the eye, the nose, and the mouth.

It still gets great reactions more than 25 years later.

But what, you may ask, about the added fat of leaving the chicken's skin on and having a goat cheese filling?

Well, nobody says you have to eat the skin. And the filling is just 1 1/2 ounces (45 g) per serving. In short, it's a delicious and satisfying tradeoff, well worth making.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Fresh Herbs Recipe

Serves 4


6 ounces fresh creamy goat cheese
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
1/2 bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, leaves finely chopped
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless chicken breast halves, skin left on

Wild Mushroom and Sweet Onion Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces fresh chanterelles or other fresh mushrooms
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium sweet onion such as Maui, Walla Walla, Vidalia, or Texas Sweet, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 bunch fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, leaves finely chopped
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Recipe Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (200 degrees C).

Meanwhile, crumble the goat cheese into a mixing bowl. Add the chives, parsley, and thyme, along with pepper to taste, and stir well.

Insert your finger at one spot under one edge of the skin on a chicken breast and move your finger to form a pocket underneath the skin, leaving the skin still attached to the breast. Repeat with the remaining breast halves. Insert an equal amount of the cheese mixture into the pocket on each breast. Gently pat down on the skin to spread the cheese mixture evenly.

Put the chicken breasts skin up in a roasting pan and roast them until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm.

While the chicken is roasting, prepare the vinaigrette. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add the butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. As soon as the butter has melted, add the mushrooms and saute, stirring continuously, until they are just lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Season them to taste with salt and pepper and transfer them to a large mixing bowl to cool.

When the mushrooms have cooled to lukewarm, add the onion, parsley, thyme, and basil. Pour in the remaining olive oil, the walnut oil, and the vinegar. Toss well, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon the vinaigrette in the center of each plate. Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board, cut each in half, and arrange the halves on top of the vinaigrette on each plate. Serve immediately.


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