It’s picnic season once again—hallelujah!–and I’m perusing my culinary files for dishes that lend themselves to packing into a cooler and heading to the beach or mountains. This is one of those dishes.
I also love having it on hand in the frig for everyday snacking. Thinly sliced, it makes a fantastic sandwich. But perhaps its most glamorous role is as the star of a composed luncheon plate or the centerpiece of an appetizer buffet.
Alas, this is not a dish you can throw together in 15 minutes. It takes a bit of work to make it in the quantity suggested here. You can save yourself some time by purchasing boned, skinned chicken breasts, but you must still pound each supreme to an even thickness between sheets of plastic wrap.
The other thing that requires time and practice is rolling the supremes around the filling and then into neat bundles in plastic wrap. You are going to poach the supremes rather than sauté them, which helps to keep them tender and moist.
This aromatic, stuffed chicken breast reminds me of all those English novels in which the beautiful heroine unpacks an array of gorgeous dishes from her perfect picnic basket and sets them out on an antique quilt for Mr. Right (or sometimes Mr. Wrong, but then that’s a tragedy).
This is definitely the dish I would bring to such a picnic. Accompanied by a variety of olives, cornichons, aioli, crostini and fresh fruit, you have a feast. And if the stars are aligned, True Love may follow.
Breast of Chicken with Goat Cheese, Basil & Mint
This appetizer or main course is wonderful for casual summertime picnics and buffets. The breasts are boned and halved, then flattened and covered with a thin slice of prosciutto and a layer of creamy basil and mint-flavored goat cheese. (The goat cheese—chevre–is expanded and mellowed with pureed ricotta, so you may wish to use a cheese that is a little bolder tasting than you generally prefer.)
The rolled, stuffed breasts can be prepared a day or so prior to poaching. In fact, I recommend this, as the salt has a tenderizing effect on the chicken, if given sufficient time to do its magic.
I usually serve this dish chilled, although it is also good warm. Be sure to poach the rolls at least several hours ahead, if you plan to serve them chilled.
5-6 whole chicken breasts
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 lime
8 ounces ricotta cheese (thick, emulsified type)
4 ounces goat creamy goat cheese
½ cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, minced
¼ cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or put through a press
1½ teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
10-12 very thin slices prosciutto
aioli (garlic-flavored mayonnaise)
fresh mint or basil
- Bone, skin and separate the chicken breasts, removing the tendon on the underside of each supreme (half chicken breast). Rinse under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Lay the supremes between sheets of plastic paper and pound lightly with a mallet to thin them to an even thickness of ½-inch.
- Lightly salt and pepper both sides of each supreme and squeeze a few drops of lime juice on the underside of each.
- In a medium bowl, stir the ricotta, goat cheese, basil, mint, and garlic until blended. (Don’t put into a processor as this makes the mixture too thin.) Add the lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Lay each supreme on a long sheet of fresh plastic wrap.
- Lay a slice of prosciutto on the underside of each supreme, and then spread on 2 tablespoons of the filling. (There may be filling left over here, so be careful not to let the spatula you use to spread the filling on the chicken come into contact with the filling. Otherwise you will contaminate the filling with salmonella.)
- Roll the breasts from the short side into tight little bundles. Then roll each securely in plastic wrap (at least twice around the supreme) and secure the ends with string or baggie ties. To make tight rolls, it helps to secure one end of the plastic wrap and then twist and push from the other end to get an even tight roll before securing that end as well. (Check out the photos to see how this is done.)
- Refrigerate until ready to poach.
- Arrange the bundles together in a deep baking dish. Pour boiling water over them to cover. Poach in a 375° oven for 20-25 minutes. Depending on the diameter of the rolls. Test with an instant-read thermometer to determine if the chicken is cooked through. The temperature at the center should be between 175°-180°.
- Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven. Using tongs, remove the chicken rolls from the water and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack set over a kitchen towel to catch any draining liquid.
- Remove the plastic wrap, pat the rolls dry and rewrap in clean plastic wrap. Chill for at least a few hours in the refrigerator.
- Unwrap and slice each breast into 3-4 spirals and arrange on a platter lined with fresh mint or basil leaves and other herbs. Tuck in a few edible pansies or nasturtiums if you have them.
- Serve, accompanied with aioli, crostini, olives, and cornichons.
Serves 10-12 as a main course or 20-30 as an appetizer.