Stuffing meat isn’t new or unique, but the flavor of these risotto-stuffed chicken breasts might suggest that limiting stuffing to bread cubes, cornbread or a vegetable paste might be just a bit short sighted. Why not stuff at least one of the sides in the meat for a bit of a change up. Instead of laying the chicken alongside the risotto on the plate, we give these zesty breasts center stage. But we’re not stopping there. The risotto gets a leg up with the addition of some delicious and underused ingredients.
Stuffing meat also lets us cook pieces of unequal thickness evenly. Chicken breasts are notorious for having overdone parts where the breast tapers to barely done breast centers that lie against the keel bone. By slicing through the thickest part to create a pocket for our stuffing, we have essentially evened out the thickness of the meat. The stuffing allows the meat to cook from the inside as well as the outside all at once. A boon for us since overcooked chicken breasts are dry and barely edible.
In order to avoid the dull texture of baked meat, we’ll start off frying these chicken breasts, one side only, to start the cooking process but also to add some beautiful color to their tops. The two different sauces—a hoisin sauce and a red plum sauce—both contain quite a bit of sugar, so we’ll add these later in the game to keep the carbon production to a minimum. Cooking the meat in two stages gives us the best of both worlds. We get the high heat of searing to brown the chicken but then roasting it the rest of the way lets us use some ingredients that don’t play well in high heat.
The hoisin sauce will act as a barbeque sauce during cooking, but also gives us something to stick the sesame seeds to. If we added the seeds before frying, we’d end up with burnt sesame seeds—yuck! Because we’ll only be cooking the meat in the oven for about 25 minutes, the sugars in the sauce won’t burn, and neither will the sesame seeds. The red plum sauce doesn’t even have to endure the heat of the oven. It’s just simmered on the stove top and added during plating.
Pictured with the chicken breasts are garlic sautéed green beans. The beauty here is that we can use the same pan for the beans as we did to give the chicken their initial color. Those beautiful and tasty bits from the maillard process will end up in our beans, absolutely no flavors are lost. And the results couldn’t be more tasty.
If you’re bored with your other risotto and chicken dinners, this combination is sure to shake things up a bit.
Risotto Stuffed Chicken Breasts
For the risotto
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/3 cup arborio rice
- 2 tablespoon slivered almonds, lightly toasted
- 2 tablespoons waterchestnuts, diced
- ¼ cup sliced scallions
- 2-3 large cloves roasted garlic, chopped
- ½ teaspoon each medium ground kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
For the hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
For the red plum sauce
- ½ cup red plum jam
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice win vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic paste, or to taste
- 2 large or 4 small-medium chicken breast, skinned and boned
- black and white sesame seeds, optional
- canola oil for frying
Bring the chicken broth and rice to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat. Stir in the almonds, waterchestnuts, scallions, garlic and salt and pepper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Whisk the hoisin sauce together and set aside. Cut a pocket in the thick part of each breast to within ¼ inch of the top and sides of each breast being careful not to cut all the way through. Divide the stuffing between the breasts. Use a wooden toothpick to secure the open end of each breast.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of canola oil to a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Cook the breasts, smooth (skin) side down for 3-4 minutes until the breasts begin to brown. Carefully remove each breast and place it in a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil, raw side down (cooked side up). Divide the hoisin sauce between the breasts, brushing it on. Sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Roast chicken breasts for 25-30 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Do not overcook.
Meanwhile, prepare the red plum sauce by simmering all the ingredients together until they are thick and have reduced slightly. Keep hot. Prepare the garlic green beans by sautéing fresh or frozen beans in the same pan that the chicken was fried in. Do not wipe out the pan. Add additional oil if necessary. Stir in 3-4 cloves of roasted garlic a few minutes before the beans are done. Season with coarse ground salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Top the beans with toasted slivered almonds. Serve each breasts topped with a generous spoonful of red plum sauce.