|Asparagus Pesto Stuffed Chicken|
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**
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
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.
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.
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