I am having a love affair with pink peppercorns. That’s right, I said it. Until recently I had not tried them separately, they are often part of the whole peppercorn mix commonly sold for grinders. Pink peppercorns are not actually true peppercorns, but because of their size and slight pepper taste they are often grouped in with peppercorns. They are actually a fruit of the Brazilian, and the Peruvian peppercorn tree. Their flavor is a delicate balance of pepper, citrus, sweetness, and a light floral quality. Unlike true peppercorns they lack the heat that comes from the volatile oils in peppercorns, and they also can be used whole instead of ground. These little babies are wonderful in a variety of dishes both sweet and savory.
I had recently come across a recipe for baked goat cheese studded with pink peppercorns and fresh thyme. I thought to myself…that would be delicious with chicken. Then I realized that I had recently bought a ton of fresh basil. All of a sudden I had an idea on my hands. I’m probably not the first person to come up with this combination, but as far as I’m concerned I am.
Stuffed chicken breast with goat cheese, pink peppercorns, and basil.
3 medium (not too thick) chicken breasts, butterflied*
4 oz semi soft goat cheese (chevre)
1 Tbs pink peppercorns, whole
1 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375.
Butterfly your chicken. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice open a pocket in the chicken. This is somewhat difficult, but just go slowly use fluid slicing movements, and know that you will get better with time.*Here is a tutorial.
Mix together the goat cheese, pink peppercorns, and the basil.
Stuff 1/3 of the mixture into the pocket of the chicken breast, press together the edges of the chicken. This should happen easily, if not you have too much stuffing in your chicken and it will ooze out during cooking. Repeat with each remaining breast. Salt and pepper each side of the chicken
Ideally you will want to use a skillet that can move from stove top to oven, but if you don’t have something like this use a heavy skillet to sear the chicken breast, and then transfer them to an oven proof dish for baking. Add about a Tbs of olive oil the the skillet and heat it to medium high. Remember, the skillet needs to be hot to get a proper sear on the chicken. Place the stuffed breasts into the skillet and let them cook for 2 minutes on each side.
Transfer skillet to the oven (or transfer chicken to baking dish) and bake for 15 minutes or until the chicken has reached 160 degrees. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving. If you so desire, crush a small amount of pink peppercorns with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle over the chicken before serving
A few notes:
I made served this with a super simple orzo salad and roasted asparagus.
For the asparagus I made a foil packet and drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it for the 20 minutes it took the chicken to bake (15 minutes to cook, 5 minutes to rest).
For the orzo salad, I cooked 1 cup of orzo, tossed it with a teaspoon of lemon zest, the juice of one lemon, a heavy drizzle of olive oil, and about 2 Tbs of toasted pine nuts. Deeeelicious.
I love goat cheese, but for some a little can go a long way. The boyfriend commented that he thought the goat cheese flavor was overwhelming, but that he just didn’t eat all of it and still loved it. Our other dinner guest loved it as much as i did. So keep in mind that if goat cheese isn’t your favorite thing you might want to scale down the filling just a bit; or another option would be to mix 1/2 cream cheese and 1/2 goat cheese.