Paleo Stuffed Chicken Breast with Dates, Capers, Bacon & a Walnut Crust

Some days you just feel like a culinary genius.  Today was one of those days!   Nothing super fancy — just chicken, but have you ever tried to come up with a chicken recipe that you have never tried before.  Not the easiest thing to do. Chicken is so ubiquitous  that it’s pretty much all been done.  I’m not claiming that I’m the first person in the thousands of years that man has been eating chicken to try this combination of flavors, but I’ve never seen it, and as far as my taste buds are concerned, that’s all that matters.   What is my masterpiece, you ask.  It is a boneless skinless chicken breast stuffed with dates, capers, and bacon.  To top it off I added a chopped walnut crust.   In theory it sounded good, but I was a little nervous about how the flavors would blend in the finished product.  No worries, it was as good as I had hoped!  I like the combination of walnuts and dates, but you could also use pecans or maybe pistachios too.

This dish will be a little sweet, but is balanced by the salty capers and bacon.  I recommend simple sides with this like steamed broccoli or mashed cauliflower.

Before getting to the recipe, a quick word about dates…

One of my Christmas cookie specialties (and the family favorite) is a date and nut pinwheel cookie.  My grandma’s recipe called for finely chopped dates.  If you have never worked with dates I will warn you — dates are sticky.  Chopping them by hand the way grandma did was a nightmare.  I did it exactly once, and then I bought a food processor.   A food processor works much better, but you still have a sticky bowl and blade to scrape and clean.  My world changed when I found pre-chopped dates —- more of a date paste really —- at a middle eastern market.  If you can find these in a store or market near you, DEFINITELY go this route.  At my market, I get a pack for $1.99.  It contains a cup of paste —- enough for 4 to 6 chicken breasts.   I’m not even sure I can buy whole dates that cheaply.  Cheap and easy.  Win win.

For my non-paleo or dairy eating friends — I really like Manchego cheese with dates and think it would be fabulous sliced thin and added to the stuffing in these.  It is a harder cheese and doesn’t melt well, so avoid using big chunks.

Ingredients:

     1.)  4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

     2.)  1 cup +/- date paste or finely chopped dates (amount will vary depending on how big your breasts are.  Actually, the size of your breasts is irrelevant, it’s the chicken’s that count.)

     3.)  4 tsp capers (could probably go a little heavier if you’d like)

     4.)  6 to 8 strips of bacon

     5.)  salt and pepper to taste

      6.) 1 egg –  lightly beaten

     7.)  1-1/3 c walnuts – Coarsely chopped  (the measurement is before chopping the nuts)

Directions:

Pound the chicken breasts to a relatively uniform thickness.  Put each breast, one at a time, between a couple of sheets of waxed paper to keep chicken juices and pieces from flying everywhere.  Then whack the crap out of it using a meat hammer, rolling-pin, or other weapon of choice (I personally have a heavy ice cream scoop I prefer) until the breast thickness is relatively uniform.  Feel free to take this time to work out some stress.  If you reduce the chicken to pulp, you may want to look into Prozac.

Salt and pepper both sides of each breast.

Spread with a thin layer of the date paste or chopped dates.  There is nothing magic about the amount, just avoid big globs.  Spread with the back of a spoon and work with fingers as needed.   Top with a teaspoon or so of capers.  (I used a tsp but may go a bit heavier next time).

 

 Add bacon to pretty much cover the chicken.  I used about a strip and a half for each medium-sized breast.  For larger chicken breast you could probably easily use two strip.

 

I probably should have mentioned this before but, have a supply of toothpicks out on the counter so you don’t have to reach into the box with chicken-y hands.  I’ll just leave this comment here and see how many of you read the recipe through before you start cooking.

Start at one end and roll chicken breast keeping things tucked in.   Secure with toothpicks  to hold its shape.  I like to tuck the sides as well to keep all the good bits inside and cover with chicken.

Brush the outside of your chicken roll with egg and roll in the  nuts to cover (don’t forget the sides!).  If you have any nuts left over at the end, feel free to touch up spots you missed.

Bake uncovered at 325 degrees until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  I let mine sit for about 15 minutes before serving.  Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks!

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Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms, & Shallots

I was feeling a little guilty for revealing in yesterday’s post that I used to think that brussels sprouts were the work of the devil.  To atone, I am dedicating this post to the little green fellas (and to Wade Jennings who claims that not even bacon can make brussels sprouts appealing).  On their own they are still not my favorite veggie so a little something something is necessary to give them a boost.  The special somethings in this case are sautéed mushrooms and shallots and a little bacon.  Bacon makes everything better (this is a proven fact) and there are few things that I like better in this world than sautéed mushrooms.  How can adding both be anything less than fab?  Although I may never enthusiastically embrace brussels sprouts like a long-lost relative in a tear jerking Folgers Coffee commercial,  it is good enough to make me want to give them a hearty whack on the back like an old college drinking pal I don’t mind seeing every now and then.  Seriously, this is pretty darn good.  For those that don’t care for the taste of sprouts, cutting them into smaller pieces lets more of the other flavors permeate and you get less brussel sproutiness.   And yes, sproutiness is a word.

Without further ado…

Ingredients:

5 – 6 slices bacon

2 Tbsp Grass-fed butter

8 oz. white mushrooms – quartered or thick slices

4 medium shallots

2 cloves garlic – chopped

16 oz. Brussels sprouts – ends trimmed and quartered (halved if they are tiny)

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook bacon to the desired degree of doneness (I like mine crispy).  When done, remove from pan and set aside to cool.  When cool, break bacon into smaller pieces.

Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon grease from the pan.  Add 1 Tbsp of the butter, shallots, mushrooms, and garlic to pan and saute on  medium high heat until shallots become translucent and mushrooms start to brown.

Mushrooms & Shallots

Ready for the sprouts!

Add remaining 1 Tbsp of butter and brussels sprouts.

w/ sprouts added

Cook, stirring occasionally,  until sprouts are tender (about 8 to 10 minutes).  When tender, add bacon, stir to mix, and heat for a few more minutes to spread flavor.  Salt and pepper to taste & serve.

All Done! Doesn't it look yummy?