Friday, February 10, 2012

Special Dinner - Chicken, Gruyere and Fig in Puff Pastry

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I was a logical child.  When my mother asked me (4 years old) and my sister (8 years old) one day whether we would like a baby brother or sister, I didn't interpret it as a yes-no question.  Rather, I thought it was multiple choice, and enthusiastically voted for a baby girl.  Now, we had catalogs lying around the house full of all kinds of things to order.  Since I had never seen grownups picking out children in a store, I logically assumed they were ordered from a catalog (specifically the Sears catalog - they had the widest range of household items).  You can imagine my consternation, therefore, when my mother brought The Brother home from wherever.  My sister and I quickly warmed to him when we realized that baby brothers are just as fun to dress up as our dolls were, particularly with lamp shades. ( Hmmm, I do believe there are a few pictures left lying around somewhere.)

In my humble opinion the very best way to show someone you care is to cook them a special meal, whether it's for their birthday or that certain holiday featuring lots of red hearts that's coming up.  Sure, you can plunk down a piece of plastic at a restaurant.  But a homemade meal displays more time, attention and effort.  Even people who claim they "don't want to celebrate" like a little attention.  And with all the dinero you save by not going out, you might even buy them a little something from a catalog.

The magic ingredient in this recipe is the puff pastry.  You don't have to make it - it comes premade in the freezer section of the grocery store - but it transforms foods into something special and it looks really complicated even though it isn't.  Chicken, fig jam and gruyere cheese are encased in the puff pastry to form a pretty package.  Dress it up further by putting it on a piece of red leaf lettuce, serve it with a glass of wine,  and it'll look like something in a restaurant.

The slight sweetness of the fig jam contrasts really well with the nuttiness of the melty gruyere and the richness of the chicken, not to mention the buttery puff pastry.  The first time I made this recipe I wrote a note that it would be a good dinner for our Gourmet Club, which is high praise indeed.  (We take our food seriously in Gourmet Club!)

* * click here for a printable recipe version * *

Chicken, Gruyere and Fig in Puff Pastry
Makes 4 servings

4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (or two very large breasts cut in half)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to directions on the package
4 slices of gruyere cheese (1/4" thick), cut to fit on top of the chicken pieces
¼ cup fig preserves
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400d.

Pound each chicken piece lightly to an even thickness. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and rosemary. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Lightly brown the chicken on both sides, approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured board, use a rolling pin to roll the puff pastry until it is 12 inches square.Cut into four equal squares. Place a piece of chicken on each square and top with fig preserves and a piece of cheese.

 Wrap the dough up and over the chicken, sealing the edges with egg wash.

(May be wrapped and frozen at this point. Thaw overnight before proceeding.)

Brush the tops of the packets all over with the remaining egg wash. Bake 15 minutes, until golden. 

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