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Chicken Breasts with Pumpkin Seed Filling and Butternut Sauce

Updated February 23, 2016
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It’s true that I’ve railed against the blandness of chicken breasts before. But sometimes they do have their place. Teamed with jalapeños, pumpkin seeds, and garlic, the chicken breast is transformed, like a kid in a Halloween costume. You won’t even recognize it.

Serves4

Cooking Methodpan-frying, sauteeing

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Equipmentblender, food processor

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturecheesy, creamy, garlicky, savory, spiced

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ripe jalapeño chilies, deseeded and coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1½ pounds total)
  • ½ cup grated Dry Jack Cheese (or your favorite cheddar)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Flour for dredging
  • 4 cups cooked long-grain white rice

Instructions

To make the pumpkin seed filling: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds. Cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until fragrant and slightly golden, about 4 minutes. They will pop as they cook, so stand back. Transfer toasted pumpkin seeds to a food processor to cool slightly.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the jalapeños and cook another minute.

Stir in the chicken broth, turn heat to medium, and cook for another 3 minutes, until the stock is slightly reduced and the jalapeños are softened.

Add the mixture to the pumpkin seeds in the processor. Blend until the mixture is a coarse but spreadable paste. Place in a medium bowl and cool while you prepare the butternut sauce.

To make the butternut sauce: Wash leeks thoroughly and then thinly slice the white and pale green parts only.

Peel the butternut squash. Cut it in half, and scoop out and discard seeds and stringy flesh. Cut the squash into ¾-inch pieces.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the squash and chicken broth, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer to a blender. Add the cumin, salt, and whipping cream. Puree until the sauce is completely smooth. Return to the skillet. If the sauce is too thick (possibly because you started with too heavy a squash), thin with a bit more chicken broth.

To make the chicken breasts: Lay each breast flat and pound until 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. Spread ¼ of the pumpkin seed filling across each breast. Sprinkle ¼ of the Dry Jack cheese over the filling. Fold each breast in half, short-end to short-end, to create a pocket.

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and carefully dredge each chicken pocket in the flour. Add to the pan, one by one. Cook until all pink is gone, about 5 minutes per side.

In the meantime, gently reheat the squash sauce. Divide the rice among 4 plates, top each with a stuffed chicken breast. Spoon the butternut sauce over all.

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Are we supposed to use shelled pumpkin seeds or the seeds directly from the pumpkins we carved at Halloween? Thanks!

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