Sunday, August 31, 2008

Recipe for Baked Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Sage-Pecan Pesto and Feta

Stuffed Chicken BreastsI don't remember my mother cooking with fresh herbs when I was a kid, but I do vividly remember my Grandmother Denny having a sage plant by her back door. This year I have a huge amount of sage in my garden, so I've been trying to come up with new ways to use it. When I posted the recipe for Sage-Pecan Pesto, I mentioned I might try the pesto in stuffed chicken breasts, so that led to this recipe. I thought about using goat cheese with the pesto, but on impulse I reached for the feta, and I loved the way this turned out. If you like sage and have enough to make pesto, be sure to try this recipe.

This chicken does need a bit of attention while it's baking. If you keep it in the oven until it's as brown as the photo shows, you'll be overcooking it and the chicken will be dry. My chicken did get nicely browned on the bottom where it was touching the hot pan, but the top still looked pretty pale when the chicken was done. You should stop baking the chicken as soon as it feels barely firm (about 40 minutes) and then use the broiler for a few minutes if you want to brown the top more.

Trim all fat and tendons from chicken breasts, then put inside a heavy plastic bag and pound with meat mallet until the chicken is only about 1/4 inch thick.

Mix pesto and crumbled Feta, and divide evenly among the four chicken breasts, then use a spoon to spread the mixture over the chicken.

Roll up chicken breasts, starting with the smallest end, and secure with two toothpicks to keep it together while it bakes.

The traditional method of creating a crust on meat involves dipping it in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. I used that method for Chicken Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Basil, and Goat Cheese. This time I wanted to avoid using flour or breadcrumbs so I used egg and a mixture of almond meal and parmesan to coat the chicken.

Bake chicken at 350F for about 40 minutes, or until chicken feels firm, but not hard, to the touch. If desired, you can brown the top under the broiler for a few minutes. Don't overcook or the chicken will be dry.

Baked Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Sage-Pecan Pesto and Feta
(Makes 4 servings, recipe created by Kalyn)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup Sage-Pecan Pesto (you could make this with purchased basil pesto if you don't have fresh sage)
1/4 cup crumbled feta (packed)
1/4 cup Almond Meal (can also use bread crumbs)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a flat roasting pan with olive oil or nonstick spray. Trim all visible fat and tendons from chicken breasts, then put each chicken piece inside heavy plastic bag and pound with meal mallet until the chicken is 1/4 inch thick. (Don't worry if there are some ragged edges, you can tuck them in.) Lay chicken skin side down on cutting board.

Put crumbled Feta and pesto in a small bowl and mix together with a fork. Divide pesto mixture evenly among four chicken breasts, then use a spoon to spread it over the chicken, not going completely to the edge or the stuffing will leak out. Roll up each chicken breast, starting with the smallest end and tucking in any ragged edges, then secure each piece with two toothpicks.

Put beaten egg in one bowl and combine almond meal and parmesan in another. Dip each chicken piece first in egg, then in almond/parmesan mixture, turning over several times so chicken is well-coated.

Place chicken pieces in baking pan and cook until chicken feels firm but not hard to the touch (about 40 minutes, but start checking a little sooner.) If desired, put chicken under the broiler for 3-4 minutes to brown the top. (I did broil the top a bit.) Serve hot.

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South Beach Suggestions:
With the coating of almond meal and parmesan cheese, this chicken is suitable for any phase of the South Beach Diet or any other type of low-glycemic eating plan, but this should probably be a "once in a while treat" for South Beach, due to the fat content in the pesto, almond meal, parmesan, and feta. I would serve it with a vegetable on the side such as Sauteed Broccoli Rabe or Garlic Roasted Green Beans.

More Stuffed Chicken Breasts to Try:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Chicken Stuffed with Green Chiles and Cheese
Baked Chicken Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Basil, and Goat Cheese
Phase One Baked Chicken Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Basil, and Goat Cheese
Stuffed Herbed Chicken with Boursin Cheese from Simply Recipes
Italian Sausage Stuffed Chicken Breasts from Gourmeted
Spicy Peanut Encrusted Jarlsberg and Avocado Stuffed Chicken Breasts from Christine Cooks
Pesto and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once
Stuffed Chicken Scallopini from Got No Milk
Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Madeira Sauce from The Savory Notebook
Parmesan Stuffed Chicken Breasts from Technicolor Kitchen

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  1. I love the possibilities and flexibility of this recipe -- change the pesto, the cheese, the crumbs (panko is calling to me), and it will still come out delicious. I have lots of sage in my garden this year, too, so I'll have to try your pesto recipe.

  2. Lydia, I think the sage pesto has more possibilities than I ever imagined. I think it would be easy to make it too strong, but with plenty of pecans and cheese, it's great!

  3. See? They turned out just fine! I'm allergic to nuts but this is the type of food I eat and make for myself when I'm alone :)

  4. Wow, thanks for the idea of almond meal and parmesan for a breadcrumb-like effect without so much simple carbs. I have always been drawn to try this style of baking but always held back. I'm so thrilled to find this alternative.

  5. Looks and sounds really delicious, Kalyn.


  6. Looks good! I did something similar with the filling from We Are Never Full's stuffed artichokes:

    It was delicious but I did overcook the chicken. It's tough to get it right.

  7. Sage pesto sounds amazing. I wonder if I could collect enough wild sage here in the valley to give it a go?

  8. Kalyn, you've always had my tast buds, and now you have my heart. Being gluten intolerant and, as you know, having sage pesto in my freezer, all I need are the nuts for the crust. I rarely praise a recipe before trying it, but this is an exception. Thank you.


  9. OMG, I LOVE that! Yum. Gotta try it.

  10. Holy moly, almond meal - YES! That is brilliant!
    As Lydia says is is the kind of thing that opens me up to all sorts of possibilities! This just looks excellent and seems to have a wonderful future!

  11. What coincidence , this week end I made chicken breast stuffed with braseola and camembert.But I am not bloggin this :( Yours looks great specially the crums, looks really delicious.

  12. Hi Kalyn,
    Thanks for visiting my blog. This recipe looks delicious and tempting. I'll try them and let you know how it came for me.

  13. Nikki, yes I was happy with them, but you never know when I'm "winging it" like this.

    Yu ming lui, I've used almond meal on fish too, very good.

    Paz, thanks. I liked it a lot.

    Amber and Tom, that filling looks good!

    Bellini Valli, try it. You could cut the pesto recipe in thirds or fourths if you don't find that much sage.

    Michael, thanks for the praise in advance. I appreciate it!

    Glenna, do try!

    Tanna, yes the possibilities are unlimited!

    Sylvia, I wish you were blogging yours too. Maybe next time?

    Gita, let me know if you try it.

  14. You are really got everything in detail. I love any food recipe, I love barbeque food. I was glad I'm in China. There is lots of amazing food here, insist you to try "sichuan food" :)

  15. What a nice way to use that sage pesto. The chicken looks good!

  16. It looks so pretty! I don't have any sage, but I'm sure it would turn out great with other herbs as well!

  17. These are gorgeous - I envy you having so much fresh sage!

  18. I made this tonight and it was really delicious! I have a huge sage bush in my herb garden and I'm never quite sure what to do with it beyond the occasional few leaves here and there in a recipe. When I tasted the pesto raw, I was worried it was a bit strong for my kids, but after it cooked with the feta and chicken, it was just awesome. I used breadcrumbs to coat the chicken and a bit less parm in the pesto. Thanks again for another winner Kalyn!

  19. Qcloud, I went to China and did love it there!

    Kevin, thanks.

    Natashya, I think there are any number of herbs that would work, as long as you adjusted the amount of herbs depending on how strong they were.

    TW, wish I could send you a big box of sage, I still have tons!

    Lara, how fun. I am excited to know that the recipe is now "kid-approved!"

  20. Oh Kalyn... This is probably the most exciting recipe I have seen on a blog all day (and I've been to quite a few ;-)) Bookmarked! Looking forward to it!

  21. Jeanne, thanks so much for that comment. That really means a lot to me, coming from you.

  22. Oh my - that sounds yummy! I wish I found the recipe before I went grocery shopping... This will have to be on the menu though.

  23. The pictures are really great. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Will try this at home.


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