This dish can be as quick or as difficult as you want it to be. For me, the toughest part about this dish was tying up the chicken breasts. I’ve always been a visual learner and this YouTube video clip shows one how to properly tie up a roast or in this case, a stuffed and rolled breast of chicken.
I like this method best as it’s the classic way and it can be applied to beef tenderloin, pork loins or in this case here, tying up a flattened, stuffed and rolled chicken breast. If you want to practice this method, try it on a rolled up bath towel.
On to the dish. Again, you can make this dish as quick or as long as you want it to be. The importance in executing any dish is “mise en place” or as “zee French” say, everything in its place. Have your ingredients ready and you should be able to bang this dish out even on a weeknight. Still too little time after work? Prepare the stuffing, tie-up the chicken and place in the fridge overnight and cook’er up the next evening.
Looking at the ingredient aspect of the dish, these ingredients are on hand for most Greeks and perhaps most you. What used to be an ethnic ingredient is now mainstream.
Roasted peppers. I roast bushels of red peppers in September and freeze them in zip-lock bags. I thaw, peel the charred skins whenever I need roasted red peppers. You may char them on your gas/charcoal grill or over a natural gas stove-top.
Further on down the list we have Feta cheese, pistachios, smoked paprika and for the sauce, a reduction of white wine, some stock and finished-off with a fresh splash of Skinos Mastic liqueur and strained Greek yogurt.
Most people can now buy strained Greek yogurt but why pay extra for something you can do yourself? Dump the tub of plain, whole milk yogurt into a fine metal sieve and strain for 24 hours. The volume will reduce by half but you will end up with authentic, strained Greek yogurt.
The next time a dish or a sauce calls for heavy cream, try adding a dollop of strained Greek yogurt instead. It’s rich, creamy, lighter in calories and it won’t curdle on you. I also like the slight tang it offers.
Finally, the splash of Skinos Mastic Liqueur might not be available in your market place but you can buy Mastic resin (teardrops) or even mastic essence. My good friends at Mastiha Shop in New York City cater an array of products that are made with mastic and Artemis (owner) tells me they gladly will also ship to Canada! Just select “contact us” and they will place your special order.
Why should you make this dish? First, it looks damn good, you’ve now mastered tying up a roast, you have all the ingredients on hand, it’s pretty easy to cook and it’s certainly delicious.
Seasoned chicken breast, roasted red peppers and their hint of smoke, creamy Feta cheese blended with pistachios, an aromatic sauce with some sweetness from the Skinos liqueur.
The dish really jumps off the plate with the bedding of saffron rice. The region of Kozani (northern Greece) produces some the world’s best saffron and it’s always a delight to include it in a dish.
Enough touting – lets get cooking!
Chicken Breast Stuffed With Roasted Red Peppers, Feta and Pistachios
2 large chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin
4-6 roasted peppers, peeled of charred skins and seeded
2 tsp. smoked paprika
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely ground pistachios (shelled and unsalted)
olive oil for searing
Feta and Mastiha Sauce
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup strained Greek yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled Feta, mashed with a fork
1 tsp. of lemon zest
1 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves
1 shot of Skinos mastic liqueur (or 1 tear drop of Mastic, crushed OR a drop of Mastic essence)
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heated 375F oven
2 1/2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
a pinch of saffron
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup of long-grain rice
- Rinse your rice and place it in a medium-sized baking vessel. Take a pinch of saffron and place in a bowl. Pour some hot stock (1/2 cup) over it and give the saffron about 5 minutes to bloom (liquid will turn a bright yellow. Pour the saffron-infused stock along with the remaining 2 cups of stock, olive oil and rice into your baking vessel and stir. Adjust seasoning (if any salt is needed) and place in your pre-heated oven 400F for approx. 45 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove from the oven, fluff with a fork, cover and keep warm. Reduce your oven to 375F.
- Rinse your chicken breasts and pat-dry. Butterfly your chicken breasts and then place between some plastic wrap and pound out until thin and even in thickness. Peel the charred skins of your roasted red peppers and seed them. Shell your unsalted pistachios and place in a food processor and pulse until course. Add the crumbled Feta and olive oil and process until blended.
- Sprinkle the smoked paprika on the insides of your chicken breasts Now lay out your roasted red peppers to cover most of the chicken’s surface (allow a border of about 1/2 inch so that the filling isn’t exposed when rolling). Now smear the Feta and pistachio filling over the peppers and spread it out evenly with a spatula or your hands.
- Tightly roll up your chicken breast and tie them up as per the video clip I’ve included above. Rub a good amount of olive oil over the chicken breasts and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Place a large skillet on your stove-top over medium-high heat. Place your chicken breasts on the skillet and sear on all sides until golden. Add some more oil if needed.
- Remove the chicken breasts from your skillet and transfer to a baking tray. Place a meat thermometer into the centre of the breast and place in your pre-heated 375F oven. Roast your chicken breasts for about 30 minutes or until the thermometer reads 180F or until the juices run clear. Take your chicken breasts out , reserve/keep warm (allow to rest at least for 5 minutes before slicing).
- Using the same skillet that your seared the chicken in, over medium high heat, add the wine, stock, smashed garlic and and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium, scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoonÂ and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and add your lemon zest, fresh thyme and strained Greek yogurt. Gently stir in the yogurt and add the splash of Mastic liqueur. Simmer for a couple of minutes while stirring, take off the heat and reserve until chicken is ready to be serve.
- Snip off the butcher’s twine from the chicken and carefully slice the into rounds. Divide the portions and serve on a bed of saffron rice. Spoon over some Feta and Mastiha sauce over the chicken along with come finely chopped pistachios for garnish.
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