I know I have a lot of catching up to do - my "coming soon" list is getting longer and longer. I guess we spend more time at home now that the weather is getting all moody and nasty on us, or maybe I am just consciously trying to make the most of the remaining two months before returning to work after my maternity break. Not that I will be giving up blogging completely - but realistically, I won't be able to do more than 3 or 4 posts per week... if only I was paid for doing it, I could easily spend my weeks just cooking, taking pictures of it and writing about the food I create. If you want to sponsor me, let me know ;-))
Dinner tonight was a complete surprise - my daughter had been asking for chicken, and since I started this diary of my culinary adventures I have not really made any dish twice, so I was on the look-out for something new to do with chicken. I found a pretty unappealing clipping out of Sainsbury's Magazine using apples and nuts - always a thoroughly autumnal affair! The idea sounded great, but the picture was not very inviting, so I wasn't thoroughly convinced. But I decided to adapt it. I was homesick for France anyway, thinking a lot of my friends in Normandy lately - so this recipe using calvados, cidre and apples fits in very well.
Although not the quickest to make, these chicken breasts were the tastiest I have had in a while... no, make that "probably the tastiest ever" - with its stuffing of pecans, apples and thyme. But the best part was the creamy sauce of onions, calvados, cider and some crème fraîche - just wonderfully fruity and it making the flesh incomparably moist and tender.
Apple & pecan-stuffed chicken breast in creamy cider sauce
4 chicken breasts (ca. 150 g each)
1 braeburn apple (peeled and finely chopped)
35 g pecan nuts (coarsely chopped)
1 tsp thyme leaves (finely chopped)
1 pinch salt, freshly ground pepper
4 short bamboo skewers
For the sauce:
40 g butter
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
3 tbsp calvados (or brandy)
1 rounded tbsp flour
300 ml medium sweet cider (or use French cidre, if you can)
150 ml vegetable bouillon
1 tbsp crème fraîche salt, pepper, nutmeg
For the sides (optional):
500 g spinach (washed & drained)
30 g butter
250 g wild & basmati rice
Clean the chicken breasts and cut an incision horizontally, to form a large pocket - careful not to cut through. For the stuffing, combine the apple, thyme and nuts, season with salt and pepper, then stuff the chicken breasts with the mixture and secure with the bamboo skewers.
Heat the butter in a non-stick pan with a lid, add the onions and cook until starting to soften. Immediately add the chicken breasts, covered, and brown on both sides over a medium heat - this should take about 10 minutes combined. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
Spoon the calvados into the pan and let bubble until almost evaporated. Take off the heat, sift in the flour, return to the stove, then gradually add the cider and bouillon. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place the chicken in this sauce, cover with a lid, then gently poach for 20 - 25 minutes until tender. Remove the chicken again and let rest in a warm place while you add the cream to the sauce and return to a gentle boil. Keep warm.
In the meantime, cook the rice to packet instructions, heat the butter in a pan, add the spinach, cover with a lid and let the spinach wilt. Season well.
Arrange the chicken breasts on plates with the rice and spinach, spoon over some sauce and serve immediately.