The initial sear in this preparation is extra work (as opposed to simply roasting the breasts), but it gives the chicken a wonderful, browned crust, which intensifies its flavor.
Make Ahead: The chicken breasts can be stuffed up to 2 days in advance, wrapped well and refrigerated. The chicken and sauce can be made up to 1 hour before serving.
- For the chicken
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped mixed dried fruit, such as apricots, apples and raisins
- 1/2 cup dried plain bread crumbs (may substitute fresh bread crumbs)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (see NOTE)
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 medium (56 ounces) chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and tenderloins (reserve tenderloins for another use)
- For the sauce
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
For the chicken: Combine the dried fruit, bread crumbs, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of the oil and half of the parsley in the bowl of a food processor; pulse a few times to combine. Transfer to a medium bowl.
Combine the salt, cumin, black pepper, coriander and cinnamon in a small bowl to form a spice mix.
Cover the work surface with a large piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper; place the chicken on it.
Starting on one side of each chicken breast half, make a horizontal slice, cutting almost all the way through; open the chicken like a book. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the butterflied breast and gently pound with a mallet, flattening it evenly to less than 1/2 inch.
Sprinkle the insides of the chicken breast halves using half of the spice mix and then top each with a few tablespoons of the dried fruit mixture. Fold each breast over and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle the outsides of the breasts with the remaining spice mix. Wrap well and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers (about 1 1/2 minutes). Add 4 of the stuffed chicken breasts and cook undisturbed for 3 minutes, until they have browned on the bottom and release easily from the skillet. Turn them over and cook for about 2 minutes, until the second sides have lightly browned. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet; when it is shimmering, add the remaining chicken and repeat the cooking process. Transfer the stuffed chicken breasts to the lined baking sheet; cover loosely and set aside.
For the sauce: Carefully discard as much oil from the skillet as possible. Set the skillet over high heat; add the cider, broth and vinegar, which will deglaze the skillet. Use a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits and incorporate them into the sauce; cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture reduces to about 1/2 cup (stay close to the pan toward the end of cooking to avoid scorching). Remove from the heat.
To assemble: Fifteen minutes before you are ready to serve, transfer the stuffed, seared chicken breasts to the oven; roast for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are firm to the touch and just cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest piece should register 165 degrees). Let cool for few minutes, then transfer the chicken to a platter and drizzle with the pan sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley.
From cookbook author Tony Rosenfeld.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.