20 April 2010

Asparagus Pesto Stuffed Chicken for Earth Day


Asparagus Pesto Stuffed Chicken
April 22nd marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, celebrated around the world by more than a billion people. Earth Day is a day to celebrate the earth and remind us to appreciate nature and learn how to protect our environment. And while it is celebrated in the Spring here in the northern hemisphere, it is actually observed in the autumn in the southern hemisphere (both days being the exact “middle point” of the season). Internationally, it reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, so this (like the newer Earth Hour project) is a worldwide event.

Let the celebrations on April 22 be your motivation for joining a CSA and/or supporting your local producers by buying local produce and foods, switching to energy efficient light bulbs, walking and cycling more, using less water, or as "foodies" getting friends together for a sustainable dinner party. It’s all about the small stuff.  But here’s the thing...if your neighbour does the same thing, and your neighbour’s neighbour...now that adds up to something substantial. This is the one and only time that I personally would like to keep up with the Joneses and learn about the simple things I can do in my own home, neighbourhood or city. We've come a long way, baby ... but there is always work to be done. I for one have a long way to go before my home becomes selfsustaining. On April 22, I will reflect on what I can do in 2010 to keep the momentum moving towards my own personal progress.

In Canada, Earth Day has grown into Earth Week and even Earth Month to accommodate the profusion of events and projects. They range from large public events, such as Victoria’s Earth Walk (5,000 participants), Edmonton’s Earth Day Festival at Hawrelak Park (30,000 participants), and Oakville, Ontario’s Waterways Clean-up (2,000 participants) to the thousands of small, private events staged by schools, employee groups and community groups.

Get started at http://www.billionactsofgreen.com/

You can reduce your carbon footprint. Start counting at http://www.countdownyourcarbon.org/

Show your Earth Day spirit by joining in on events in your community. For more info, visit http://www.earthday.ca/ or http://www.earthday.org/

In recognition and support of this event, I made a dish using all local ingredients. This is not a 100 Mile Diet recipe because it utilizes bread crumbs. There is not a wheat field within a few thousand kilometers of here. But I must say the organic chicken is locally produced as well as the asparagus and spinach which are all Spring treasures. I continued with my fetish for pesto by using the Asparagus Pesto I made the other day and added to a grilld cheese sandwich. Encasing pesto inbetween tender and moist chicken breasts is one of my favourite uses for pesto. The pesto helps keep the chicken breast tender and moist. This dish is an easy and impressive main course for a sustainable dinner party. Enjoy and do your part to keep your earth green.


**Asparagus Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts**

4 chicken breasts, about 6 ounces (170 grams) each
coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup Asparagus Pesto (recipe follows)
1 cup (about 100 grams) flour
2 eggs, beaten slightly
1 cup (about 100 g) seasoned bread crumbs (1/2-1/2 with panko crumbs if you prefer)
1 lemon zested
pepper
3/4 cup of cream
toasted pine nuts (pignoli) or chopped walnuts for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. Mix ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of Asparagus pesto. Set aside. Butterfly each chicken breast, using a sharp knife to carefully cut into one side until it opens like a book. To even out the thickness of the breast for even cooking pound lightly with a mallet. Season the interior with salt and pepper and spread with the ricotta/asparagus pesto mixture. Leave edges pesto free. Close and secure with string or toothpicks, or wrap them in caul fat. (My trick to hold them together is to use dried spaghetti in place of toothpicks; it basically disappears during cooking). Dredge this chicken preparation in flour, then dip it in the beaten egg, and then finally roll it in breadcrumbs. Repeat for the other breasts. bake in a dish lined with parchment paper or foil for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the parcels are firm to the touch and juices running from the chicken are clear and no longer pink, and a meat thermometer reaches 180F/80C.

Combine the chicken pan juices and 1/4 cup of the pesto in a saucepan over medium heat. (If there are little to no juices add 1/4 cup chciken stock). Cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring the sauce to boil. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer. Cook until the sauce is reduced by half. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve the chicken, remove the string from the chicken. Slice each breast into 1-inch medallions. Transfer to a plate and top with the pesto cream sauce. Sprinkle the top with pine nuts or chopped walnuts.
 
Serves 4

**Asparagus Pesto**

1 lb fresh asparagus
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts (pignoli)
1 large handful spinach
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest or 1 chili pepper
2 cloves garlic, mashed
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste

Wash and peel bottoms of the asparagus. Cut each spear into 4 pieces. Bring a pan of water to a boil**. Blanch the asparagus for one minute in the boiling water and drain. Drop the asparagus into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and keep the asparagus bright green. Remove from the ice water and drain well on paper towels.

When the asparagus is dry place into a bowl of a food processor along with the spinach, cheese, walnuts, parsley, lemon zest (ir chili pepper) and garlic. Pulse until a rough paste has formed. Continue to process adding the olive oil slowly until the pesto is the desired consistency. A few drops of water can be added if it is too thick. Do not use an acid based liquid like lemon juice or wine vinegar or the green color of the pesto may darken unless added right before serving.

Remove from the food processor and place in a small bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate till serving time.

**To steam asparagus: Bring 2 inches water to boil in a large saucepan holding a steamer basket. Place trimmed asparagus on basket and bring water to a rolling boil. Cover pan and steam 8 to 10 minutes until tender.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips

26 comments:

  1. That chicken is particularly scrumptious looking and sounding! An original pesto...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Ha! Another brilliant use for that pesto (I can't tell you how good this sounds). And a great reminder about Earth Day.

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  3. I really hope there is asparagus at the Farmers Market on Friday. I HAVE to make the pesto

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  4. What a deliciously fresh way to enjoy chicken!

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  5. Great post (as always) and I love that chicken of yours - looks lovely.

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  6. Thanks for the earth day reminder! with the lovely use of pesto :)

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  7. Perfect recipe for Earth day!

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  8. Never thought of that combination before but it looks scrumptious. Happy Earth Day a bit early.

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  9. This is a beautiful dish to celebrate Earth Day!

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  10. I'm pretty sure you can stuff ricotta into anything and it will taste delicious. But I have to say, with the asparagus pesto it looks especially good!

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  11. You inspire me with your actions and as always your food looks incredible !
    Sandy

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  12. more asparagus goodness! you're well on your way to becoming the asparagus queen, val. :)

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  13. Mmmm, just bought two big bunches of green and fresh asparagus and wanted to prepare a puree... but now, I don't know what to do anymore :D. I'll go for a bike's ride in the afternoon to make up my mind ;D

    It looks so delicious Val!

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  14. Your photographs are gorgeous here! I have been missing you because I forget to read my rss feeds... I wish you had a subscribe by e-mail button, then I would get every new post!
    :)
    Valerie

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  15. I'm looking forward to celebrating Earth Day at a local vegetarian restaurant that is focused on sourcing from farms close by.

    The asparagus pesto looks delicious!

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  16. I have a subscribe by e-mail button Valerie. It is not something I use on other blogs but I took your suggestion when I revamped my blog and put it in.

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  17. Happy early Earth Day! Where I am Mother Nature is doing one of those "hey my birthday is coming up, don't forget about me" bits where she's trying to get our attention hard core with ridiculous weather.

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  18. this sure does look good, and how very creative of you - love those green and white swirls!

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  19. Wow, love the way you prepared this chicken...asparagus pesto...looks delicious and absolutely love the combination of flavors :-)

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  20. Your dish looks so delicious! Your photo is awesome too!

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  21. That is a beauty Val. I will happily pay a lot of money for that meal!!

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  22. I'm not fond of asparagus but this recipe made me really hungry. I would absolutely love to try this at home.

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  23. Very well made, Val...props for stuffing and securing the chicken breasts and for concocting a delish creation.

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  24. Asparagus pesto? Fantastic! I live a stone's throw from huge asparagus fields. We also call is Delta Grass, because the best fields are on the Sacramento River delta.

    This dish will grace our table soon!

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  25. This looks so lovely for Earth Day.

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  26. HA! I saw your post on my asparagus pesto recipe and came to check out yours. Great minds think alike, or so they say! I like the ricotta idea, and using it for a stuffing. Very creative!!

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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