Let’s be honest, the chicken breast is one of the most boring cuts of meat around. There’s a reason that dishes like coq au vin use thighs and legs – that’s where the good, flavorful (read: highest fat content) meat is. By comparison, the chicken breast is a dry, spongy, flavorless lump – good if chopped and mixed with dark meat in a chicken salad, but all too easy to turn into a dried out nightmare by itself.
What follows, though, is a surefire way to make a flavorful chicken breast, not so much by relying on the taste of the chicken itself, but using the breast as a sort of scaffolding around which to build something yummy that will impress most any dinner guest. Remember why we said that a chicken breast was inferior to a thigh in flavor? It’s because the breast lacks fat content. There’s a cure for it though – we’ve got to add some fat (and flavor) to the breast, and what better way to do it than to wrap our fat-deprived poultry up in a salty, fatty layer of bacon and stuff the whole thing with something tasty – in this case, some boudin that we were lucky enough to get from a friend in south Louisiana:
Now, it may be possible to get good boudin in Arkansas, but if so, I wouldn’t begin to know where. I wouldn’t trust the mass-produced stuff in the sausage section of the grocery store (Zatarain’s, I’m looking at you) because it’s tasteless, horrible stuff. The boudin in the picture above, though, is the real deal, meaty and good with just enough spice and a texture that makes it perfect for use as a stuffing. Of course, you can pretty much use whatever you like for the stuffing: regular sausage, cheese, prosciutto — it’s up to you.
To make the stuffed breasts, just pound them down into a nice, flat shape, put a generous dollop of your stuffing on (half of a link of boudin does the trick nicely) and roll the breast up. Take 3-4 pieces of bacon and wrap them around the stuffed chicken, sealing it nicely. Bacon has a little bit of stretch to it, so I usually tug gently on the bacon as I’m wrapping so that the filling stays nice and snug. After that, sprinkle a bit of red and black pepper over the top and bake at around 350 degrees until the internal temp has gotten to around 165 and the bacon is nice and browned. If you like your bacon crisper, feel free to let the chicken spend a few minutes under the broiler (just be careful not to burn it).
Use some of the rendered chicken flavored bacon fat from the pan to saute some shallots and chopped spinach to make a nice bed for your stuffed chicken breast, and serve:
The best part is cutting open the chicken and getting at the stuffing – the dish tastes as good as it looks, and this one has never failed to impress. Here’s what the chicken looks like in cross section:
Just like that, a boring chicken breast has become something loaded with flavor. You can make the wrapped breasts up in advance; just keep them covered. I’m sure any kind of sausage would work wonderfully like this, so use whatever you like the most, or whatever local product is the best in your area. Happy cooking!