After vacationing in Palm Springs in the dead of winter, returning to below zero weather seems somehow exaggerated. The cold is colder, my coat seems bulkier and my once shiny tropical colored pedicure is now dull *sigh*. I confess that I was awestruck by the palm trees, colorful citrus trees hanging heavy with fruit in nearly everyone's yard and the overall opulence that is California.
The stars in my eyes have faded but luckily, I did have the foresight to pack some wonderful reminders of that magical land to cook with when I returned home. I brought home a few pieces of incredible citrus, some olive oil and orange blossom honey from the farmers market and dates; beautiful, golden Halawy and deep brown Khadrawy dates grown just a few miles from where I was staying. But, what to do with dates in Minnesota?
I could definitely stuff them with goat cheese and bacon wrap them. YUM. I have already added them to Apple Crisp and tossed them into a cabbage slaw with nuts and citrus and I will have a batch of oatmeal cookie batter with walnuts and dates in the freezer to bake later.
But now, I am thinking dinner. Being a giant fan of Mediterranean flavors and North African flavors in particular, it wasn't hard to decide on Moroccan Date and Apricot stuffed Chicken Breasts.
Moroccan Date and Apricot stuffed Chicken Breasts
2 Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Breasts, pounded to an even thickness
1 c. low sodium Chicken Stock
¾ cup plain Couscous
½ Orange, skinned, seeded and chopped
½ cup diced Dates
½ cup diced dried Apricots
2 Tbsp Moroccan Olives or other dry cured black olives, chopped
2 Tbsp toasted Pinenuts
1 tsp Cumin
½ tsp each Cinnamon and Ras el Hanout*
Kosher Salt to taste
Heat chicken stock to a simmer over a medium heat. Add couscous and stir. Add remaining ingredients, toss together and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes.
Lay out the pounded breasts, skin side down. Mound the couscous stuffing on the chicken breast and pull the ends up over the couscous. Use skewers or tie the breasts to hold the meat in place.
Brown the rolls briefly, skin side down in a little olive oil in a saute pan, then turn each skin side up into an ovenproof pan.
Place the chicken breasts in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise until it exceeds 165 degrees (essential for chicken to be cooked thoroughly). Remove the skewers and slice the breasts into thick slices.
Juice and pulp of ½ of an Orange (about ½ cup)
¼ cup Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 – 1½ Tbsp Honey
1 tsp Ginger Puree or grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp each Cinnamon, Cumin and Ras el Hanout
Kosher Salt to taste
While the chicken is roasting, squeeze the remaining orange half into a small saute pan. Add the chicken stock and olive oil. Heat together to a low simmer. Add honey, ginger and spices and heat through. Taste and season as needed.
Pour a little of the sauce over the roasted, sliced chicken breasts. Serve with any remaining couscous and a salad. Think warm California thoughts.
- *Ras el Hanout is a middle eastern spice blend that translates to something like 'top of the house' or the 'house blend'. You can buy it ready made or find a number of recipes on line with which you can experiment and create your own 'house blend'.
- Save those bones! Buying bone in poultry is almost always cheaper than boneless. Whether you are roasting whole birds or creating your own boneless cuts, save the bones in a container along with onion peels, celery and carrot trimmings. This gives you the makings of chicken stock whenever you are ready to make it without any additional cost.
- Fresh ginger can be kept in the freezer and grated as you need it or you can often find ready to use ginger puree in a tube near the herbs in your local market.
- Pinenuts are best toasted in a small saute pan over medium heat. Keep the nuts moving in the pan to avoid burning them until they are warmed through, lightly brown and fragrant.