Chicken Breasts

with Shallots, Prosciutto, Chèvre Cheese, Figs, and a Port Reduction Sauce
I came up with this one a few years back at my folks' house. A new fancy grocery store had opened up and I was wandering around the store and saw fresh figs, and this is where my thought process went.

For 4

Ingredients

2 # Chicken Breasts (4 Breasts)
6 - 12 Figs (depending on size), fresh if you can get them
½ Cup Port (Tawny or Reserve)
3 Shallots (somewhat finely diced)
8 Thin Slices Prosciutto
5 oz. Chèvre Cheese
¼ Cup Unsalted Macadamia Nuts (toasted and crushed)
  (if you can only get salted, leave salt out of the recipe below)
6 - 8 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (or 2 t dry thyme)
Salt
Pepper
4 Foot-long pieces of butcher's twine (or string)
2 T Olive Oil
2 T Butter

Port Reduction Sauce:
1¼ Cup Port (Tawny or Reserve)
2 T Butter
Black Pepper
1 T Corn Starch
1 T Cold Water

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.

Put your macadamia nuts on a cookie sheet, and once your oven reaches 400°, put them in to toast them. I tend to check them after 5 minutes, to shake them around, and take them out after another 5 minutes (so 10 minutes total). Keep your oven on, and set the nuts aside to cool.

Slice your figs somewhat thin - if you're using fresh figs, you can either peel them or not, it doesn't really matter. Put the fig slices in a bowl, and pour in your ½ cup of port, mix it around with a spoon, and set aside. You'll want to marinate the figs for an hour or so, and want to stir them around with the spoon every so often.

Dice your shallots somewhat finely, and set aside in a bowl.

Chop up your toasted macadamia nuts, somewhat finely, and set those aside in a bowl.

Take your sprigs of thyme, and with your fingers and thumb, slide up from the bottom of the sprig, to break off the leaves. Give them a good dice, and set them aside, again, in a bowl.

In a small stock pan (or a small sauté pan), put your 2 T of butter, cup of port, and black pepper, and set over a medium flame. Once it comes to a hard simmer, turn the heat down, and allow it to reduce to about half (20 minutes or so). Once it's reduced, kill the flame.

Lay your chicken breasts top side down on a piece of plastic wrap, and lay another piece of plastic wrap on top of the breasts. With the flat side of a meat tenderizer (or a large spoon, or any other flatish heavy object), beat the breasts so as to flatten them out some. The plastic wrap keeps bits of chicken flying around and sticking to things, the beating spreads the chicken out for more surface and thins it out some.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap. It's time to start assembling. Sprinkle your shallots on the breasts, then lay two slices of proscuitto on each, covering the shallots. With a spoon, lay in some of your marinated figs (keep the marinade and leftover figs aside for the pan). Open your cheese, and put it in a bowl. With your fingers, mush it around to get it to a good malleable consistency. Evenly divide it up, and with your fingers, pat on top of your layer of figs. Now sprinkle on some of your macadamia nuts (save a little bit aside for garnish).

Take your 4 pieces of butcher's twine (or string), and tie a little loop at one end of each. This will make it easier for tying. Roll each of the breasts, lengthwise, using your fingers to help keep all the stuffing inside (and don't worry if it's not perfectly tight - the string will take care of that). Once you've rolled each, take your string, slide it under one of your chicken breasts, and slide the un-looped end of the string through the looped end, and pull it snug. Now just loop the string under, over, under, over the breast by sliding it along the bottom and wrapping it around. When you wrapped it a few times, loosely tie it off. It doesn't have to be super tight, you're just trying to help keep it together until it's started cooking. Sprinkle some black pepper, salt (providing you didn't use salted macadamia nuts), and thyme over the tops, and pat with your hand.

Once you have all four tied up, put 2 T of butter and 2 T olive oil in a medium, oven-proof sauté pan, and turn the flame to medium - medium high. Once the pan is good and hot, place your breasts in the pan, bottom side down, and let cook for approximately 2 - 3 minutes. You're just searing them right now. After 2 - 3 minutes, with a set of tongs, turn each over in the pan, to sear the top, for another 2 - 3 minutes. Flip them back over with your tongs, pour in the excess port marinade and figs, and pop the pan into your 400° oven, for approximately 25 minutes.

When there's about 5 minutes until the chicken comes out of the oven, put your port reduction over a low flame. In a small bowl, put 1 T of corn starch and 1 T cold water, and mix it around with a fork or your fingers, to make a slurry. It has to be cold water, or the corn starch won't turn into a slurry. As your reduction is starting to simmer again, stir in the slurry, a little bit at a time, to thicken it up. You might not need it all, you might need a little more.

Check on your chickens. 25 minutes should have done it just right, but you can test them with either your finger or a thin, sharp knife. If the knife goes in and out of the breast nice and smoothly, or poking it with your finger feels somewhat firm, you're good to go. Otherwise, give 'em another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven (be careful - the pan will be very, very hot), and with a sharp knife, cut the twine free from each breast.

To serve, take a spoon and put a little bit of the reduction on a plate. With either tongs or a spatula, place one of the breasts onto the pool of reduction, and spoon over a couple of tablespoons of the reduction over the breast. Drizzle some of the reduction around the edges of the plate, and sprinkle some of your leftover macadamia nuts over the chicken and the edges of the plate.

Enjoy!

Good Prepping & Dining Music


Gipsy Kings
The Best of the Gipsy Kings

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
No Quarter

Various Artists (Soundtrack)
Ocean's Eleven

The Beatles
Rubber Soul