Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Although this sounds like a church-basement entree, this recipe comes from Raghavan Iyer’s book, 660 Curries, pages 655-656. Iyer has devoted a major portion of the book to adding curries to contemporary dishes from other cuisines to great effect. When Dale made this recipe to use up some avocados that were lying around, it was a great hit.  He made it without the paneer, so consider that an optional ingredient. You could also substitute shredded mozzarella.

The ingredients for the spice mixtures described in this recipe are listed as separate entries.

For the chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1½ lbs. total)

4 oz. Doodh paneer, shredded

1 medium-size ripe but slightly firm Hass avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/8-inch cubes

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chilies, stems removed, finely chopped (do not remove the seeds)

1 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt

2 tbsp canola oil

For the sauce:

1 medium-size eggplant (about 1¼ lbs.), stem removed, finely chopped

1 small red onion, finely chopped

2 tsp English-style Madras curry powder

1½ tsp coarse kosher or sea salt

1 tsp Punjabi garam masala

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or water

1 medium-size tomato, cored and finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnishing

1. To make the chicken, place a chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it to thin it out evenly, until it is roughly ¼-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining 3 breasts.

2. Combine the paneer, avocado, cilantro, salt and chilies in a medium-size bowl. Mix thoroughly.

3. Lay 1 pounded chicken breast on a cutting board. Spread one-fourth of the filling across the lower third of the breast. Roll it up, tucking the ends under, to form a tight log, burrito-style. repeat with the remaining chicken and filling. (You may need toothpicks to hold the rolls together.)

4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the stuffed breasts, seam side down, in the skillet and sear them until they are light brown, 2 to 4 minutes. using a pair of tongs, gently turn them over, taking care not to let the filling spill out (once you sear the seam side, it should firm up and somewhat seal the edge.) Cook until they are browned all over, 2 to 4 minutes. Lift the breasts out of the skillet and set them aside on a plate. (You can also grill the rolled breasts, but use a flat grill pan over the grill rack.)

5. To make the sauce, add the eggplant and onion to the same skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant starts to release its liquid, and then starts to brown lightly along with the onion, 12 to 15 minutes.

6. Stir in the curry powder, salt and garam masala. Let the spices cook gently without burning (the vegetables will provide cushioning), about 1 minute.

7. Pour some of the stock into the skillet and scrape the bottom to deglaze it, releasing the browned bits of chicken and vegetable. Then pour in the remaining stock, and add the tomato.

8. Raise the heat heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until some of the stock has been absorbed, 5 to 8 minutes.

9. Return the chicken breasts to the skillet and spoon the sauce over them (the blanket of stew-like sauce will prevent them from drying out). reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and simmer, without stirring, until the breasts are no longer pink inside (carefully slice into one to check for doneness), 15 to 20 minutes.

10. Using a spatula, transfer the chicken breasts to a platter. Spoon every last bit of the sauce over them, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.

Serves 4.

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