Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

It looks as though bacon will always rule as king of the breakfast meats. Interesting enough, we don’t reach for bacon near enough to add great flavor and fat to other meals, like lunch or dinner. The addition of bacon to other dishes can be a good way to enjoy its smoked flavor.

Charcuterie - The Craft of Salting, Smoking & CuringDo you know the process of smoking bacon?

Chef Jeff Raycroft explains that homemade smoked bacon is a simple process. Jeff says the bacon should be hot smoked in a smoker that has reached an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the smoker is ready, the bacon should be hung or placed on racks and smoked until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Afterward being smoked, the meat needs to be cooled and sliced.

If using charcoal in your smoker, add soaked wood chips directly on top of the charcoal then a water bath added above that to keep humidity up in the smoker which stops the meat from being dried out.

Chef Raycroft recommends the book, “Charcuterie – The Craft of Salting, Smoking & Curing” buy Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. Link here to have a look inside the book.

Our featured recipe is Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts, and here is what you will need.

stuffing ingredients for chicken breasts2 tablespoons olive oil
4 6-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons crumbled cooked smoked bacon – 1 slice of bacon = 1 tablespoon crumbled, cooked bacon
6 basil leaves, rolled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

butterfly cut chicken breast seasoned Butterfly the chicken by running a sharp knife horizontally through the thickest part of each breast. Place one hand on top of the breast to stabilize while holding the knife parallel to the work surface while cutting. Do not cut all the way through.

preparing stuffed chicken breastsOpen the breast so both halves can lie flat. Season the exposed surface with salt and pepper, then add 1/4 of the ricotta cheese, crumbled smoked bacon, and sliced basil leaves to each breast.

Fold the breasts in half so the cheese mixture is surrounded by chicken breast on the bottom, back and top. Secure with long wooden toothpicks, if desired.

pan searing stuffed chicken breastsHeat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-safe skillet. Once hot, add the stuffed chicken breasts to the pan to sear.

Once browned on the bottom, carefully turn each breast over and repeat on the other side. Season top and bottom with salt and pepper, if desired, during this process.

Place skillet in preheated oven and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted, approximately 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover until ready to serve.

Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts - close upA few minutes before removing the chicken from the oven, start making the balsamic glaze. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat.

Stir while heating until the vinegar is reduced to about 1/3 of its original volume. It will form a thick, syrupy consistency when it is ready.

To serve, place a stuffed chicken breast on each plate and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Pairs well with a mixed green salad or roasted vegetables.

Here are some ideas for roasted vegetables:

  1. Roasted Sweet Potatoes And Figs
  2. Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables
  3. Excite Your Palate with Spice Roasted Vegetables

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Enjoy A Meal With A Simple Spring Salad

Enjoy A Meal With A Simple Spring Salad The arrival of spring means that seasonal fruits and vegetables are in season. Produce like asparagus, strawberries, leafy greens and rhubarb among others.

We look through some of our favorite past cooking magazine issues and possibly yours as well to find the perfect spring salads.

Your family will love these vibrant, colorful and delicious salads. If you want to make a meal out of them, just add some chopped cooked chicken, or fish, like salmon, halibut, or tuna.

Both featured salads serve a table of four.

Arugula Salad Topped with Walnuts Strawberries and Parmesan Cheese

Vinaigrette 

1 cup halved fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar *see recipe notes below

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

1 teaspoon raw local honey (local to your area)
Add ingredients to a blender and blend until well mixed.

Recipe Notes

Aged balsamic vinegar may not be economical for you, as I thought it wasn’t for me. Unless you plan to regularly use it. A bottle of 12 year old aged balsamic vinegar is around $40 a bottle.

What we did, is brought a 1/2 cup of regular balsamic vinegar infused with strawberry (you can also opt for blueberry or pomegranate) to a boil over high heat in a small ceramic coated skillet. Cook until the vinegar begins to thicken and becomes syrupy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool then follow vinaigrette recipe above.

Salad Ingredients

1 cup walnut halves

We found a cool way to candy the walnuts, and credit goes to private chef Chris Crary  with his candied walnut recipe featured at California Walnuts.

1/2 cup California walnuts

1 egg white

1 ounce sugar

2 tablespoons walnut oil

Salt to taste

Beat egg white until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and mix in to peaked egg white. Next add the walnuts and coat with the egg mixture. Place in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Once mixture is cool, toss in walnut oil. Set aside.

16 ounce bag of arugula

2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered

1/2 cup candied walnuts

Shaved Parmesan

Arugula Salad Topped with Walnuts Strawberries and Parmesan CheeseIn a large salad bowl, combine arugula, strawberries and candied walnuts. Plate salad and drizzle with vinaigrette and top with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

To make salad a meal, when mixing salad ingredients, add a cup or two of your choice, chopped cooked chicken, salmon, halibut, or tuna.

Mixed Greens with Smoked Salmon Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

1 grapefruit with white flesh, peeled, pith removed, and dice segments

5 ounce package of mixed greens

1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

5 ounce package smoked salmon, flake with a fork

Vinaigrette

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of sweet garlic mustard (we found this at Whole Foods Market)

1 tablespoon of EV olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mixed Greens with Smoked Salmon Avocado and Grapefruit SaladMix lemon juice, mustard, oil, salt and pepper to a large salad bowl.  Next add mixed greens, grapefruit, avocado, and smoked salmon. Toss until well coated with vinaigrette. Plate and serve.

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Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken and Asparagus

Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken and AsparagusAbout 70 years ago, way before fast food restaurants opened up, one pot meals were popular. The reason being that the women worked long hours in the fields or in factory jobs, and were often too tired to make a complete meal for their family. So instead they made meals that were quick and easy to put together.

One pot meals are quick and easy to prepare and do not not require a lot of time in the kitchen. On many occasions these meals are enjoyed by family and friends, and always include foods that go well together, like pinto beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti and ground pork.

A true one pot dish is literally using one pot to cook all the ingredients at the same time. The one pot meal can also include using one pot to cook the ingredients separately, and then combining them together at the end of the preparation and cooking time. These type of one pot meals are also not time consuming.

Our featured dish: Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken and Asparagus is the later description of the one pot meal. Here is what you will need.

produce ingredients for Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken and Asparagus

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp Italian dressing, your favorite, store bought or homemade

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/4 lbs chicken, sliced horizontally, and cut into 2 x 4 inch pieces

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and black pepper for seasoning

1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed of tough ends, cut to 2-inch pieces (thinner stalks are the best to use, if you can find them)

1 1/2 cups rainbow matchstick carrots

1 cup grape tomatoes, mixed colors, halved

If you can not find rainbow matchstick carrots, then the orange ones are fine. We did take the time to make our own matchsticks using a red and yellow carrot with a julienne peeler.

In a large measuring cup, mix together dressing, balsamic vinegar, honey, and red pepper flakes, and set aside.

cooking chicken in a large skilletIn a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with a little salt and pepper, then place chicken evenly in skillet. Cook about 8 minutes, turning chicken pieces once halfway through cooking, until it has cooked through.

Add half the dressing mixture to skillet and rotate chicken to evenly coat. Transfer chicken to a large serving platter, and leave sauce in the skillet (if there is any).

cooking asparagus and carrots in a large skilletNext add the prepared asparagus and carrots to skillet, season with a little salt and pepper (optional), and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer veggies to a serving platter with chicken.

Add remaining dressing mixture to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.

Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken and Asparagus - closer viewAdd tomatoes to vegetables and mix in. Drizzle dressing mixture in pan over top of chicken and vegetables or return chicken and vegetables to pan and toss to coat. Plate and serve.

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Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Vegetables with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce

Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Vegetables with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce

Chicken breasts often get all the glory, when it comes to preparing a poultry recipe. It could be that the white meat is top choice. Some do say that the drumsticks and thighs are the juiciest and flavorful meat on a chicken. We would add they inexpensive and easy to prepare as well.

Our featured recipe is a simple way to take those ordinary (I had to add that),  juicy and flavorful chicken drumsticks into an extraordinary meal. You can adapt the recipe and use thighs as well.

Chicken Trivia

Today’s domestic chicken is mainly descended from the wild red jungle fowl of Asia, with some additional input from the grey jungle fowl (Science Daily).

Since their domestication, a large number of breeds have been established, but with the exception of the white Leghorn, most commercial birds are of hybrid origin (cab direct).

Chicken Jokes

Why Did The Chicken Cross The RoadSince we are discussing chicken, we can’t feature the recipe without telling a few chicken jokes.

The Hen got up in the Roosters face and said, “What was you doing with that chick on the other side of the road?”

A duck decided to cross the road, and a chicken appeared from out of no where and said, “Stop, don’t do it, you will never hear the end of it.”

As the Roaster crossed the road he said, “I have a dream, a dream of a world were chickens can cross the road without having our motives questioned.”

Now for our featured recipe: Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Vegetables with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce, and here is what you will need.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1 ½ teaspoons black pepper

1 ¼ pounds small tri-colored baby potatoes

1 pound large rainbow carrots (about 3)

1 red onion cut in ½ inch chucks

1 large lemon, sliced, seeds removed

3 garlic cloves, sliced into three’s

8 large chicken drumsticks

¾ cup white wine, your choice

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon sweet garlic Dijon mustard (if not able to find, Dijon mustard is fine)

1 ½ tablespoons fresh tarragon

Heat oven to 450 degrees

preparing chopped vegetablesIn a large bowl toss 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper with potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic. Add mix to a large roasting pan or baking dish.

adding chicken and wine to baking dishNext using a large bowl, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoons pepper, and chicken legs. Toss drumsticks to coat with oil. Next arrange the leg on top of the vegetables in the pan, and pour wine into the pan.

Place dish in a preheated oven and roast for 45 to 50 minutes, or until chicken is done and golden but not crispy.

Remove chicken legs and keep warm.

mustard tarragon sauceIn a small bowl or cup, stir together cream and next 3 ingredients until smooth, add to vegetables and stir in mix well. Place dish back into heated oven and bake 5 to 8 more minutes, stirring once, until sauce is thickened.

Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Vegetables with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce - plattedPlate and serve chicken with vegetables. Your option to sprinkle with additional chopped tarragon.

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Fennel and Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette

Fennel and Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette

Mustard has a sharp, hot, pungent flavor. Over time though, the heat of prepared mustard can dissipate, because of the chemical compounds coming in contact with oxygen after they have been crushed.

As a prepared condiment, mustard could contain ingredients like salt, sour vinegar, and sweet flavors. Turmeric is most often added mainly to give mustard its yellow color.

Because of its antibacterial properties, mustard will not grow mold, mildew, or harmful bacteria. Mustard can last indefinitely without becoming inedible or harmful, though it may dry out, lose its flavor, or turn brown from oxidation. Just stir in a tiny amount of wine or vinegar to help improve dried out mustard.

Dijon style mustard with the addition of wine, was first developed in Dijon, France.

Now for our featured recipe:

Fennel and Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette

3 slices center-cut bacon

1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined (recommended not to use farm grown shrimp, as it contains more cholesterol, than its wild caught counter part)

2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 medium bulb)

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (when making this in the summer, you can use Symphony Cherry Tomatoes, as they come in a variety of colors)

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

1 (9-ounce) package fresh baby spinach

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (we like to use infused balsamic vinegar, our favorite is balsamic infused with pomegranate)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (if possible get the Dijon that has some whole seeds, and you will get a sharp, hot, pungent flavor to your salad)

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt (better than regular table salt. It contains all of the trace minerals, so you use less salt)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, optional

Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving the drippings, and crumble the bacon., and set aside.

Fennel and Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette -close upNow add the prepared shrimp to the pan, and cook about 2 to 3 minutes on each size. Remove from pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the bacon, fennel, grape tomatoes, red onion, and baby spinach.

Combine the remaining ingredients at the bottom of a large salad bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Now add the bacon, fennel, grape tomatoes, red onion, baby spinach, and shrimp. Toss the ingredients until well coated with the balsamic mustard vinaigrette toss.

Plate and serve.

 

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Vinaigrette’s to Complete Your Salad

Vinaigrette's to Complete Your Salad

Vinaigrette is a French culinary invention, around 1690 to 1700’s.

Vinaigrette is an emulsion of vinegar and a form of oil, such as (but not limited too) olive oil, and sometimes flavored with herbs, spices, and other ingredients. It is used most commonly as a salad dressing, but also as a cold sauce or marinade.

In some French cuisines, vinaigrette preparations are used as a cold sauce, such as with cold artichokes, asparagus, and leeks.

In general, vinaigrette consists of 3 parts of oil to 1 part of vinegar whisked into an emulsion, such as mustard. Salt and pepper are often added. Herbs, garlic, and shallots are added, especially when it is used as a sauce for cooked vegetables or grains, such as rice.

These vinaigrettes presented here are a light and tasty addition to any salad. Simply use them with a bowl of arugula and butter lettuce or your favorite mix salad greens.

The best way to mix vinaigrette with your greens, is pouring the vinaigrette into a large salad bowl first then add the greens and gently toss to completely coat, while leaving any excess dressing at the bottom of the bowl.

For all the vinaigrette preparations you will need a glass bottle with tight fitting lid for storing.

Avocado Vinaigrette  Avocado Lime Vinaigrette

This recipe is intended to eat with a salad without any left overs. The lime juice is used for flavor as well as keeping the avocado from oxidizing or turning brown.

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons avocado oil

½ teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Mash 1/2 to 1 avocado until as smooth as possible, and mix in other ingredients.

 

Fresh Peach Salad with a Citrus VinaigretteCitrus Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 large grapefruit, peeled, pith removed, and sectioned

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, honey, grapefruit juice, and oil. Add grapefruit sections; season with salt and pepper. Keep vinaigrette in airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days.

 

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, and garlic. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly and season with salt and pepper to taste (optional).

 

Herb Mustard Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

2 teaspoons shallots, minced

2 Tablespoons dijon mustard

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried parsley

½ teaspoons freshly black pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cups red wine vinegar

1¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Mix all the ingredients in a glass jar.

Screw the lid on tightly and shake.

Serve as needed. Keep refrigerated.

 

This following vinaigrette goes great with a Spinach Salad.

Salad with a Citrus VinaigretteRaspberry Vinaigrette

½ cup fresh raspberries

½ cup vinegar

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. basil

2 tsp. marjoram

1/2 tsp. rosemary

2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. sage

Mesh strainer or cheesecloth

Rinse the fresh raspberries and place them in a mixing bowl. Mash the raspberries with a wooden spoon to release their juices. Strain the mashed raspberries through the mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a separate mixing bowl. Discard the raspberry pulp.

Pour the vinegar and virgin olive oil into the bowl of raspberry juice. Add the Italian seasoning, sugar, basil, marjoram, rosemary, oregano and sage to the juice and stir to combine.

 

This vinaigrette would go great with an Asian Chopped Salad.

Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup peanut

1 tablespoon Asian toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Whisk together grated fresh ginger, minced garlic, sugar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.

While whisking, slowly add peanut and toasted Asian sesame oil until emulsified. Stir in chopped fresh chives and toasted sesame seeds.

 

Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette 

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

1 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder

1 teaspoon lime juice

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients, except oil in blender and blend on low speed for ten seconds.

Next, on low speed SLOWLY pour olive oil into blender.

Chill for at least an hour.

Header Image credit: razmarinka / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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