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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

a labour of....stuffing?

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There's something about the act of stuffing something that elevates the humble chicken breast, the rustic squash....or anything, really....

When I'm trying to figure out what to serve to guests, I always want to make sure that I'm not stuck slaving over a stove for an hour while everybody else has a great time.

So I found a great solution - send hubs out into the deep freeze to barbecue! I wanted an entrée that was out of the ordinary, but kinda homey feeling. I came up with roasted acorn squash, stuffed with bulgur risotto (with asparagus and peas) alongside prosciutto-rosemary stuffed grilled chicken and topped (or'll understand when you see the pic of the final product) with a cider vinegar reduction sauce.

I could lie and tell you this didn't take quite a long time to put together...but I won't. This isn't really a dish for a weeknight, but I think the squash would make a credible veggie entrée if you used a bigger squash. And the chicken was delicious.....I brined it first, which is crucial to getting a moist, yummy inside and grilled delicious outside. Have I mentioned before how much it totally rocks to have a hubby who will venture outside to barbecue mid-winter? Sweetness.........

Bulgur Risotto with Peas and Asparagus
Shamelessly stolen from epicurious.

5 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups bulgur
4 cups (about) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (don't bother to thaw)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until light golden, about 5 minutes.

2. Mix in bulgur. Add 1/2 cup stock and cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock 2 more times, simmering after each addition and stirring often until liquid is absorbed.

3. Mix in asparagus. Continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time until bulgur is just tender and mixture is creamy, simmering after each addition and stirring often until stock is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

4. Add peas and cook 3 minutes longer. Stir in 3/4 cup Parmesan, cream, tarragon and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Serve, passing additional grated Parmesan, if desired.

Serves 6 as a first-course. (I stuffed 6 small squash halves and had a TON leftover...which I promptly forgot about and left in the pot to congeal overnight...oops....).

Roasted Acorn Squash stuffed with Bulgur Risotto

(for side dishes, use small cute squash, for a main dish, use bigger time shouldn't be too different!)

3 small (or medium) acorn squash
1 recipe bulgur risotto

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Using every ounce of strength, cut the squash in half (it's at times like this that I jump up and down for having a chinese chopper).
2. Using a spoon (or knife), scrape out the seeds.
3. Place cut side down on parchment paper (or silpat, if YOUR hubby didn't cut through it with a butter knife). Bake squash for about 30-40 minutes, until soft but NOT collapsing. :)

steamy acorn squash

4. Fill squash with bulgur risotto. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes. Serve topped with grated parmesan!!!!

Chicken stuffed with prosciutto and rosemary, topped with cider vinegar reduction

6 chicken breasts
1/4 cup kosher (coarse) salt
2 T sugar
1 cup hot water, 7-8 cups cold
6 slices prosciutto
1/4 cup (give or take) dijon mustard
2-3 T chopped fresh rosemary (don't use dried - I initially wanted to use basil, but my store was out)
montreal steak spice (or salt and pepper)

1. In a glass 9x13 pan, dissolve the kosher salt and sugar in the 1 cup of hot water. Once it's mostly dissolved, add the cold water.

2. Place the chicken in the brine mixture and let sit for about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, take the prosciutto, and spread each slice generously with dijon mustard. Sprinkle with some fresh rosemary, and roll up into a tight little tube like a cigar.

stuffin' for my chicken

4. To stuff the chicken (and not have it all fall out!), take a butcher knife and make a hole in the thick end of the chicken (stab it straight in, and wiggle it around, so the chicken has a little slit in it).

5. Take the prosciutto roll and gently (or not so gently) stuff it into the end of the chicken. Make sure that none of the prosciutto is sticking out. With this stuffing method, you should be able to do pretty much anything to your chicken without it falling apart! :) It's a revolution! To season, sprinkle with some montreal steak spice.

stuffed chicken!

6. Preheat the grill to medium heat, and cook for about 25 minutes (or until chicken is completely cooked through - cut to check if you're not sure).

I served this with a tangy, yummy sauce....

For cider vinegar sauce
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sliced shallots
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
1 1/2 cups beef stock or canned broth

Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots; sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add sugar. Sauté until shallots are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add vinegar; boil 2 minutes. Add both stocks; boil until liquid is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 40 minutes. Strain.

This sauce never thickens, so you *could* perhaps add a bit of cornstarch if you like your sauce thick. It was nice the way it was, but it was definitely just plain old liquid on the drizzly beauty here.

Anyway, hubs is getting annoyed with me for bloggin' away for so long tonight, so I shall have to end it here. Watch out for tarte tatin! Thanks for reading!

prosciutto stuffed chicken, bulgur risotto in acorn squash and cider vinegar sauce

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