Updated! Herbed Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Sauce Aurore
When I first started this here blog, I cooked up a fancy dinner for my lady friend Crystal that subsequently stood out in my mind as one of the best things I’d ever made. It was the first time that I had a vision for dinner that didn’t come straight from the pages of a cookbook or a glossy magazine. I mixed tons of fresh herbs into some ricotta, stuffed it inside of some chicken, and topped the chicken with a light, tomato cream sauce that pulled it all together, and this recipe became my go to suggestion whenever anyone asked me for something easy but impressive to serve for dinner. But the original pictures I took for the post? Not so impressive. I always intended to make this again, with more appealing photographs, because I would hate to think this recipe would be shunned because of its seeming unattractiveness. Well finally, last week, I did it.
And I was reminded that yes, this really is one of the most inspired things to come out of my food obsessed head. It’s full of flavor and relatively quick, although I feel I should disclose that it does dirty a fair number of dishes. I tweaked the recipe just a bit from my original version, finishing the chicken in the oven instead of on the stove to ensure it cooks all the way through. I also got to use my fancy silicone food ties, a gift from my Aunt Debbie that I haven’t had an opportunity to try out until now. (They were a little tricky to get the hang of, but worked quite well once I got over the learning curve.)
I also used slightly different herbs this time around, thus proving this recipe is versatile enough to use what you have on hand. I do have to recommend using fresh herbs, at least for the majority of the filling. I used a little dried oregano, but the fresher the better, no matter what you’re using. In the original recipe I used basil, mint, parsley, and tarragon. The second time around I used basil, tarragon, thyme, and a little dried oregano. I say use whatever you like and you’ll be happy.
Herbed Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Sauce Aurore
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1 T. grain mustard or Dijon
- 1 tsp. dried tarragon
- about 1/2 c. olive oil, plus another tablespoon
- about 1 c. ricotta (I prefer whole milk, but it can be hard to find, and the recipe doesn’t suffer with skim)
- a good handful of your favorite fresh herbs, chopped
- salt and pepper
(Adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
- 1 c. chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 c. cream
- 2-3 T. tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and dried tarragon, then slowly whisk in the olive oil to make a marinade for the chicken.
Place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap or in a large plastic bag, and use a meat tenderizer (or a meat mallet, as I like to call them), to pound the chicken to thin cutlets, about 1/4 of an inch thick. Place the chicken in the bowl with the marinade so it’s well coated, and marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, or up to two hours (if you marinate longer than 30 minutes, put the bowl in the refrigerator).
Mix the fresh herbs, ricotta, and salt and pepper together well, so all the herbs are incorporated into the ricotta.
When you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade and lay each breast flat on a cutting board, over food ties or kitchen twine. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture over each flattened chicken breast, and gently roll them up, using your fingers to try to keep the ricotta inside of the rolled-up chicken. This is kind of a messy process, so if you’re squeamish about raw chicken, this might not be your bag. Use the twine or food ties, or just some toothpicks, to close up the chicken.
Preheat the oven to 350F, and heat the extra tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Once it’s hot, place the chicken breasts, seam side down, into the skillet and let them sear for about two to four minutes. When the chicken releases easily from the pan, slip each piece over and cook for another two to four minutes. When it again releases easily from the pan, remove the chicken pieces to a baking dish and place in the oven to finish cooking for another 15 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Deglaze the chicken skillet with the broth, scraping up any dark bits. Add the garlic to the broth and bring the mixture to a low boil. Let it boil slowly until it’s reduced by half. Then slowly whisk in the cream (you might want to warm the a bit in a microwave or let it sit out so it’s not icy cold). Let the mixture come to a boil, whisking occasionally, until it’s thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then whisk in the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Let it cook for another minute or two so it’s thick and the tomato paste is well mixed.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let set for a few minutes before serving, drizzled with the sauce.
If you’d like to serve with a vegetable, like zucchini, you can saute them in the chicken skillet before making the sauce, and set them aside, covered, while you make the sauce. Or you can roast them in the oven with the chicken. I can’t think of a vegetable that wouldn’t be good with this stuff. And the sauce is so good, I have a hard time not just eating it all straight from the skillet with a spoon. I made it against last night with some good Italian salami and served it over ravioli, so I can attest to it’s versatility. This is one sauce recipe that I’m extremely glad I’ve added to my repertoire.
This recipe never seemed to get that much attention on this site, which I never could figure out, because it’s one of my favorites. I hope that bringing it back into the limelight (with more appetizing photos) will convince you to give it a shot. It is so worth it. Enjoy!