Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes – 1 hour
Every Christmas Eve, my family goes out to eat at the best Italian restaurant in my hometown (Its called the Foxfire, if you ever visit Stowe, Vt). My mother loves a dish called Chicken Ripieno, which is basically a stuffed chicken. I used to spend all year looking forward to the annual adventure, but this is an awesome springtime meal, so one day last year I decided to attempt it myself. Today you’re seeing my version of my mother’s beloved Christmas Eve meal.
The tender chicken, paired with figs, salty pancetta, and creamy cheese, is just amazing. The key to baking chicken is keeping it moist. In that vein, you should cook your chicken in a shallow bath of liquid. I used marsala wine, but another suggestion is to use sherry. You could use chicken stock, but trust me; you don’t want the chicken flavor to overwhelm everything else.
As you can see, not every breast can be cut the same way, so some of my pockets are on the side, some on the bottom. Either way, its still delicious!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cover a square casserole dish with tin foil.
- Chop up 4-5 dried figs. I cut in figs into several pieces.
- Cook pancetta in a pan, on medium heat, until browned. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Add figs and cook together for another 1 minute.
- Slice a pocket in each chicken breast. This can be done by either slicing from the side, or the bottom, of the breast. Just be careful to keep it a pocket, do not slice through the whole breast. You are simply trying to create a space to stuff the pancetta/fig mixture inside the breast.
- Stuff each of the pockets with 1/3 pancetta and fig mix. Add 1/3 of the cheese inside the top of the pocket. Close the pocket either using kitchen string, a toothpick or turkey lacers. Sometimes one breast is too small, and the stuffing will be visible even after its cooked (like the picture above). Most of the time, however, you look like a real expert because the cheese binds the pocket of the breast, and you can’t tell it’s stuffed.
- Place the stuffed breasts into a casserole pan. Pour marsala wine into the pan until it’s about ¼ inch high.
- Cook chicken for 20 minutes. Turn. Cook an additional 20 minutes. Be watchful not to overcook the chicken. Use a meat thermometer or puncture the heart of the breast, and watch for clear liquid to come out.
- If the chicken looks to be done at this point, turn your oven to the high broil setting. Dab the tops of each breast with a bit of olive oil. Then sprinkle with desired amount of salt and pepper. Give it 5 minutes or so, until the top of each breast is browned.
This recipe is super filling. I normally cook an entrée and two sides for each meal (veggies and grains), but I can’t usually even finish the breast. A great idea is to make a vegetable rice pilaf so that you get your grains and veggies. I humbly suggest my rice pilaf recipe…
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