Carbon Cooks: Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken restaurant style
|Sonnet's dog Olivia looks for a treat while the cook makes the good stuff. Owning a restaurant at one point in your life had its advantages.|
It's not every day that you get a letter from Gourmet Magazine asking for one of your recipes, but that's exactly what happened to Sonnet and Jay Gravina while they were running their restaurant in upstate New York. The Algonquian on Lake George served continental fare like steak, seafood, pasta, burgers and sandwiches. Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken was a popular dish the two of them created.
"It looks complicated but it's not," says Sonnet. "And it tastes great!"
The couple went to elementary school together, and then met again 18 years later while working at the same restaurant. It was natural that they open one of their own. "The Algonquian was located in a tourist area, so we were open only in the summers," says Sonnet. "In the winter we had time for wonderful adventures on an island located 3 miles from shore off of Looe Key, Florida. There were only about 12 houses and the entire island was run by solar power. Fresh water was collected in a cistern. We saw sharks and barracuda every time we went out in the boat!"
Jay and Sonnet have since gone on to other careers. Jay is a chemist for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in New York and Sonnet teaches math at the College of Eastern Utah.
"It's been hard to have a long distance marriage" Sonnet says, but states that because of overseas outsourcing Jay's job will be ending and he and boxer Olivia will soon join her in Price. They have friends in Colorado, and have spent quite a bit of time in the west, so when a job became available at the College of Eastern Utah. Sonnet decided to apply. She now has two semesters behind her and is looking forward to the new school year.
"It will also be good to have Jay and Olivia with me," she says. Who knows? Maybe they will get busy in the kitchen and concoct another wonderful dish like Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken!
Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken
1 head fresh garlic
Drizzle of olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 Ã¯Â¿Â½ cups ricotta cheese
5 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
2T fresh basil (can substitute 1t dry if fresh not available)
2 eggs (whites only)
1T butter (optional)
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk (or electric mixer)
2 medium sized bowls
1 baking pan
The first step is to roast the garlic. This step can be done a few days ahead if desired. Roasting garlic is as easy as boiling water, but much more delicious. You can add roasted garlic to mashed potatoes, pasta, various recipes and it is also wonderful to just spread on a slice of nice crusty bread. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do not peel the garlic. Using a sharp knife, slice very top of the head of garlic off. You want to be able to see the top of the garlic cloves. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap the head in a piece of foil and roast in the oven for about an hour. Remove the garlic from the oven and let cool.
To make the stuffing: Squeeze the roasted garlic from its skin and coarsely chop. Make sure there is no skin with the garlic. Remove the sun-dried tomatoes from jar and blot with a paper towel, removing excess oil. Dice the sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. Wash and pat dry the fresh basil then cut into strips about a quarter of an inch wide. A teaspoon of dried basil can be used in a pinch but the fresh makes a nicer dish. In a bowl combine the ricotta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil and salt and pepper to taste. In a second bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. You can use an electric mixer to prepare the eggs rather than a hand whisk if you prefer. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the cheese mixture until just combined. The egg whites help to firm up the cheese filling. Next we prep the chicken to be stuffed. You will need to butterfly the chicken before pounding it. Trim any excess fat from the chicken. Place your hand on top of the breast. Carefully insert the knife into the thickest part of the breast, and draw it almost all the way through the breast. Take care to keep the breast attached on one side. Open the breast like a book and lightly pound the flesh using the meat mallet until it's an even thickness. Season the chicken with salt and pepper then flip so the seasoned side is facing down. Add a generous scoop of filling to each chicken breast the fold over. Brush with butter if desired. Place the stuffed chicken breasts on the baking pan and pour a Ã¯Â¿Â½ cup of water into the pan with the chicken. This helps to keep the chicken moist wile baking. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. When the chicken has about 30 minutes left to cook, mix 2 cups marinara sauce and 1 cup heavy cream in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens up, about 20 minutes. At this point I also put on water to boil for pasta and use the remaining marinara sauce on the pasta. Divide the marinara/cream mixture evenly between four dinner plates and place the stuffed chicken breast on top of the creamy sauce. Enjoy!