Monday, June 25, 2012

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Cream Rigatoni [Zack]

America has fallen in love with the chicken breast.  This is a strange phenomenon because most other cultures value the dark meat more, as it has more flavor.  It’s most likely because Americans have been conditioned to be afraid of having any fat in their diets, and the thighs have more fat than the breasts.  (Paradoxically, they drink a coca cola with their processed grilled chicken breast sandwich, but that’s another story).  It seems like a bad trade-off because the breasts are much more difficult to cook than the thighs, they are less flavorful, and almost always come out more dry.  

Admittedly, I had been conditioned by America to love chicken breasts. In college, my roommate Anchi (who grew up with Taiwanese cooking) and I would always argue about which part of the chicken is best. I was stubborn and never brought home chicken thighs to cook.  One day, we ended up grilling the thighs and I was amazed at how much easier they were to cook.  As an older and wiser man, I have humbly changed sides and rarely buy the breasts. 

So after all of that ranting about buying chicken thighs, why am I providing a recipe for breasts?  Well, occasionally when we do see organic chicken breasts in the supermarket, they end up making it in the shopping bag.  If cooked correctly, they make a great meal.  You can amp up the flavor by using spices, herbs, or sauces.  Or in this case, you can stuff the chicken breasts with a few vibrant ingredients.

I added a nice mushroom cream sauce rigatoni recipe on the side for the meal.  The Italian flavors of the pasta go well with the prosciutto and ricotta in the chicken breast.


Start your sliced pancetta in a cold pan with ½ tsp of olive oil.  Turn the pan on medium-low heat and cook the pancetta until it’s crispy. 

While your pancetta is cooking, get a big pot of water boiling for your pasta.  Prepare the rest of your mise en place by grating the cheese for the pasta, washing and slicing the mushrooms, dicing onions, chopping rosemary, and washing the spinach.

For your pasta sauce, soften your onions in a large pan over medium heat, with 1T of olive oil.  This should take about 6 minutes.  Add the rosemary and mushrooms next.

Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes and take off the heat until you are ready to finish your sauce.  

Chop your shallot and dice your garlic.  Combine the ricotta, chopped shallot, and diced garlic into in a bowl.  Crack some black pepper into there and stir.

Next, slice chicken so it opens like a book (leaving one side in-tact).  Add a dollop of the ricotta mixture, the pancetta, basil, and then close it up with tooth pics.  I used 2 tooth pics per breast.  Salt and pepper the outside of the breast.  Make sure to warn your guest about the tooth pics before serving.  Or else you will have a sticky situation (get it?!?!)

Pre-heat your oven to 350F / 175C.  Get a pan going on medium heat and add 1T of olive oil.  Add the 2 breasts to the pan and cook slowly for about 3 minutes per side.  You want to brown both sides. Pop that sucker into the oven for about 8 minutes until it's finished.

Put your pasta sauce pan back on the medium heat.  Get your rigatoni into your boiling water and cook according to the package directions (mine took 8 minutes).

Add the chicken stock cubes (thanks Sven) or un-reduced stock to your pasta sauce pan.  Add in your 1T of truffle oil as well.  Your house should smell great at this point.  

The heavy cream is next, and then give it a good stir.

Let the sauce thicken for a few minutes before adding your spinach leaves.  The spinach goes in last for about 3 minutes so it doesn't overcook.  

Strain your pasta and pull the chicken out of the oven.  Add the noodles to the sauce and top with the grated cheese.  Serve with one or two of the extra slices of the pancetta if you didn't use it all :)


2 chicken breasts (organic if you can)
8 slices panchetta, browned
1/2 cup ricotta
1 minced shallot
cracked black pepper
1 small garlic clove
handful of basil leaves

1 tsp truffle oil
12 shitake mushrooms
6 brown button mushrooms
1 medium onion, diced
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups of fresh spinach
5 cubes reduced chicken stock or 1/3 cup un-reduced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese (or parm reggiano)

3/4 lb large rigatoni noodles

keepin it funky with:  Jazzanova - Believer (Funkhaus Sessions)
Believer (Jazzanova Vocal Rmx) by Randolph on Grooveshark

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