This recipe is an example of an invention arising from shopping whilst being hungry. Generally, I think it’s a bad idea to shop when you want some sustenance because I, for one, will buy everything that sounds good. The next day, I will look in the fridge and cupboard like I would at the tousled sheets of an erroneous one-night-stand and, similarly, might say to myself, “What the hell was I thinking?”
On this occasion, though, I came through a winner, no double entendre intended. At Trader Joe’s, I had the puritan-esque boneless chicken breasts awaiting me at home, and I chased around my 4-year-old as he hurtled his dwarfish “future shopper” cart towards the Achilles tendons of every calm, optimistic shopper without a 4-year-old with them (the ones with them tend to congregate near the wine and spirits area). One area that he found quite interesting was the cereal area; I noted his interest because of the six boxes of cereal crammed in his cart. As I began to put them back, I noticed the Trader Joe’s Maple Pecan Clusters cereal. For whatever reason, be it my stress at the store or my hunger or both, a light came on in my head.
I remembered a maple syrup chicken thingie that Emeril made some years ago. Blue cheese was involved and I was rendered a drooling fool at the finished product. Now that I can improvise a bit, I got to thinking that this might work for me. I had some blue cheese crumbles in the fridge, so it was high-time to experiment. The flavors of maple and blue cheese seem to work together, almost like they would likely be common in Vermont or something, like a natural selection.
Speaking of Emeril and culinary improvisation, I also remember him making quite a complex dish on his show. One comment he made has stayed with me through the years and has calmed me down in the kitchen every time I cook, especially for guests. Midway through the dish, he said something along the lines of, “If this works out, you’re a star. If not, don’t worry about it! Order some pizzas and everyone’s happy!” To this day, if I make something that truly sucks, I will look at my wife and ask, “What do you want on your pizza?” and it’s all better immediately. No regrets, just education. And that is how I approached this dish as well.
Lastly, any Maple cereal will do for this. In fact, cereal crusted chicken can take on many forms, I am guessing, so the limit is your imagination.
Maple Cereal-Crusted Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Blue Cheese
Serves 2 (for 4, double it, wise guy)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup blue cheese
3 tbsp. butter
1 sliced green onion (parsley would work here in a pinch)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. milk
2 cups maple cereal with nuts (any will do)
1 tsp. salt
Preheat the oven to 375°.
After washing, drying, and trimming the breasts, lay each one flat and cut a 2 to 3 inch pocket into the thickest part in the side of each. Try not to cut through the top or bottom, but if it happens, big whoop. You’ll survive.
In a small bowl, combine the blue cheese, butter, green onion, and black pepper. Smash this all together with a fork well so it’s like a blue cheese butter (duh). Divide it and stuff each breast with the mixture. With a small metal skewer, close and secure each pocket so it won’t open in the oven.
Mix the beaten egg and the milk. On a large cutting board, use a rolling pin (or something similar) to make the cereal into crumbs. Season this with the salt and toss it a bit. Dip each breast in the egg mixture and then roll it in the cereal crumbs and coat generously. Place each breast in a baking dish (glass or metal). If you have left over crumbs, sprinkle them on top of the breasts in the dish.
Roast this for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165°. Remove from the oven and let them sit for a few minutes. Remove the metal skewers and serve. You’ll get this:
Notice the mashed potatoes and gravy. Fuckin’-A. It was all to die for and it passes for an any weather dish.
So, my adventures and hunger brought me a winner. If you try this, I think you’ll be pleased. If you aren’t, pizza and sex are the same: even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013