Besides being literally and physically restorative, I find food to be good for the soul. The act of preparing something delicious, and subsequently eating the fruit of that effort, is extremely therapeutic.
Which is why, after a long, difficult day, I cook.
Sometimes, I’ll admit, the product of whatever is available in the fridge — because, honestly, who wants to go grocery shopping after a bad day? — is a little odd, and sometimes it turns out great. This, obviously, is the latter.
In my fridge that night was one lonely chicken breast, a regular old button mushroom and a carrot. The apples on the tree outside, too, were beginning to ripen, so I took one of those. The mushroom was pretty big, so I sliced half of it and diced the rest finely. Part of the apple, too, got diced, and the rest cut into strips, just slightly too thick to be julienned. The carrot got diced, too.
The sliced mushrooms went into the pan first, browning before being removed to make room for the apple strips, which also got browned. Then out went the apples, and in went the diced carrot. The diced apple went in next, while the mushroom and a little minced garlic were the last to join the sautéeing party while I pounded the chicken breast thin.
When the veggies were done, they got scooped into the middle of the flattened chicken, which I then rolled up around the veg mix and sprinkled with flower. Once browned in the pan, I let it simmer to a finish in a quick pan sauce of some apple juice and a dash of cooking sherry.
And it was delicious, the whole thing. I tried it again another night, substituting diced sweet potato for the carrot, and that was also awesome. Also awesome was I really only had to wash one pan, one knife and the cutting board, because after a long day, the last thing you want to do is a sinkful of dishes.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1 chicken breast for each serving
1 small carrot or 1/3 small sweet potato each
1 small apple, preferably firm and flavorful, each
1 medium to large mushroom each
minced garlic, opt., to taste
1 T. fresh minced herbs (rosemary, sage, basil and thyme all go well with chicken and fruity flavors), opt.
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-natural, no sugar added apple juice each
2 Tablespoons or so sherry or fruity white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
flour for dusting
Dice carrot or sweet potato, 1/3 to half of the apple and half of the mushroom finely. Mince garlic, if desired. Slice remainder of mushroom and apples. Between two sheets of wax paper, flatten chicken breast (using meat tenderizer or rolling pin) to about 1/4-inch thickness.
Brown sliced mushrooms in olive oil in hot pan, making sure not to crowd them. When browned, remove from pan and brown apple sticks or slices. Remove from pan and sautée carrots or sweet potatoes. When they begin to soften, add diced apples. After 1 to 2 minutes, add mushrooms and garlic. Crackle with a little pepper and salt, and whatever herbs you are using. After another minute or two, when mixture is aromatic and everything is tender, remove from heat and transfer veg mix to center of flattened chicken. Roll chicken around mixture, securing with toothpicks. Toss lightly with flour. Adding more olive oil, brown chicken in pan. When browned, add juice, wine and more olive oil, salt, etc, to taste if necessary. Reduce heat and let chicken simmer. Chicken is done when juices run clear. If pan sauce becomes too thick or evaporates, add more juice and wine in approximately the same proportions; if too runny, thicken with flour or cornstarch or let reduce in pan. Serve chicken with sauce and garnish with browned apples and mushrooms.