Chicken breast is my go-to protein. It’s versatile, healthy, and filling. I cook more with chicken breast than I do any other meat, mostly because it’s lean and absorbs almost any flavor you add to it. You know, like tofu…except chicken doesn’t test your gag reflex (I kid, tofu lovers, I kid).
I was once daunted by the idea of stuffed chicken breast. Food Network chefs make it look so easy, don’t they? The butterflying, the pounding, the filling, the rolling. Yes, out loud it sounds nothing like a cooking segment but more like…well, never mind.
When I cook, I mentally start with three staples: protein, veggies, and a starch. I feel like that is a good foundation for amateurs like myself. The three should work in harmony, allowing you to build flavors. They should compliment each other, as should the added ingredients. Nobody likes conflict, not even food.
The great thing about cooking, though, is there really are no rules. Sure, there are basics – don’t overcook a protein; caramelization brings out flavors; never trust a mandolin. Cooking can be played with. For example: there are restaurants putting peanut butter on burgers. Peanut butter! Someone somewhere said, “Eh, screw the rules, I’m gonna give this a try.” And here we are.
This recipe is me stepping out of the box, but not too far out. I hope you enjoy!
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 1 lb asparagus
- 6 oz jar of artichoke hearts
- 6 oz cream cheese (plain, though I used garlic & herb), room temperature
- 14 oz can white beans
- 14 oz can kidney beans
- 12 oz cherry tomatoes
- 2 large celery stalks without the leaves (fun fact: celery IS mostly water, but also a great source of fiber, which means…well, you know!)
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp dried rosemary
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- olive oil
- S&P to taste
- Butcher’s twine
The chicken breast filling:
Chop the asparagus spears into small pieces; as close to a mince as possible. Drain the artichoke hearts (save the juice!) and mince them as well (remember, all this is being added to cream cheese, so you want it small enough so it doesn’t come tumbling out of your chicken!).
Sauté the asparagus with olive oil until tender. Add a couple of tbsp of the artichoke heart juice. This allows for the asparagus to absorb flavor and become more tender. Just as the asparagus is ready, add the minced artichoke hearts, stir, then remove and spread in a large bowl to cool evenly.
In the same pan drizzle some more olive oil (as much as you’d prefer but a good tbsp at least). Toss in the tomatoes. Yep, throw those suckers in whole. A little salt as well. While these are heating up, chop the two celery stalks into 1/2 inch pieces. As the tomatoes begin to pop (literally, they’re going to burst open), throw in the celery. Toss until the tomatoes become soft and the celery becomes tender. Remove from heat. Add the garlic, stir, and set aside.
When cooled, mix cream cheese, asparagus and artichoke mixture together. This is going to be the filling for the chicken. Take a taste of it, too, see if it needs anything. Salt? Pepper? Extra love?
The chicken is where you’ll need to actually do some work. Just get your hands in there, but be careful. Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Butterfly the chicken breasts (if you’re uncertain, check this link to show you how). It’s so much easier than you think. Pound them flat under plastic wrap, about a 1/4 inch thick. You should have a large pancake-sized piece of chicken. Spoon half of the stuffing into one breast length-wise and roll it carefully, like that 80s poster of the New Kids on the Block you used to hang on your wall. Tie both ends with butcher’s twine – not too tight!
In a fry pan drizzle some more olive oil; drizzle more on top of the chicken. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and rosemary. When the pan is hot (hover your palm over it, you should feel a good heat, and the oil should be rippling), use tongs and place the chicken seasoned side down in the pan to get a nice sear (you should hear this the second the chicken hits the pan – if not, the pan isn’t hot enough); season the exposed side with a little more salt and pepper. Let sear for a good 3 to 5 minutes (until golden brown), and sear the other side as well.
When the chicken is seared properly, place on a cooking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
While the chicken cooks, open and drain the white beans and kidney beans. Rinse thoroughly through a strainer. In a large pot warm up 1-2 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp of butter. Toss in the beans and stir lightly; the white beans are soft and we don’t want them to break up. Add the tomatoes and celery; mix carefully. Add more salt, pepper and thyme to taste (remember, a little goes a long way).
Remove the chicken from the oven and cover with tin foil, allowing it to rest for about ten minutes.
Honestly, the rest is just cutting up and serving!
This plate really is quite delicious. Rosemary and chicken are a classic combination. The cream cheese stuffing is luscious, complimented with tangy artichoke and earthy asparagus. The beans are hearty but surprisingly light, and when tossed with the freshness of the tomatoes, thyme and celery…? Well, it’s comes together fantastically.
And again, about those rules? Break ’em. You don’t need to follow my specific instructions. Add a little chicken stock to the asparagus instead of artichoke juice. Use whatever herb you’d like. Fresh ginger might be amazing in the beans, or a splash of white wine. Try different things. Use what’s just hanging out in the fridge; maybe that jar of sun dried tomatoes you used once, or a few minced olives for a tangy saltiness. Spinach or kale would fit amazingly in the beans!!
I hope you enjoy it. There are versions of this all over the internet, but a little convoluted for my taste. We’re home cooks, after all; we’re not out to impress, we’re out to enjoy.