With life containing as much stress, burden and chaos as it often does, I find it important to keep my spirit as joyful and open to whimsy as I possibly can. It’s so necessary to set aside specific moments just for the very reason of celebrating life and releasing the tensions that the living of it brings along with it, and for experiencing simple merriment, refreshment, and a warmed heart. When our spirits are slightly loosened from the binding that is our physical existence, purposefully and intentionally, at least on periodic occasions that one can look forward to with anticipation, then those are the spectacular lights-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel that dot and punctuate the long, slightly-dim track ahead, and give fire and passion to our feet as they carry us along in a forward fashion. An evening filled with hot, savory, from-the-heart and home-cooked food coupled with a glass of good wine or a small snifter of smooth whiskey or bourbon over a couple of clear cubes of ice with a drop or two of water, is just what I believe that the Good Doctor above has prescribed. These are gifts that when enjoyed in the way that they were meant to be enjoyed and tasted in order for their purpose and fullness to be revealed, are the perfect instruments of small pleasure — the spot-on accoutrements for aiding in the rekindling of that appreciation for the “taste of life” so that some simple joy and warmth-of-soul can be experienced and rejoiced in.
What a pleasure an elegant dinner can be; what a chance to luxuriate in a moment of time to taste the wonderful bounty of what life’s table provides. A simple breast of chicken stuffed with a deliciously succulent filling of dried apricots, toasted pecans and fresh herb stuffing, topped off with a warming and sweet apricot-whiskey glaze, becomes the perfect meal to relish with a loved one (or two or three), with candles lit, lights dim and a small glass of “captured spirits” that when set free, invigorate and enliven not only the moment, but one’s heart. The combination of good food and good drink, purposefully planned with genuine eagerness, can allow for a release in the rigor and order of our daily lives, and can be a catalyst in inviting joy, gratitude and appreciation back into life. What a wonderful thing to allow ourselves to take a turn for the spirited, and revel in the scents, the tastes, the textures and the golden twinkling mood of the happy pairing of food and drink.
My heart leaps for joy in anticipation of an evening with the dynamic duo of a comforting dinner and a good drink to lift my spirit. What could warm ones middle, more? I’m grateful that a meal prepared with the intention to inspire that very part of me that longs to take back my child-like insouciance and joy for life, is such a simple thing to prepare in the scheme of things; that savoring a good dinner and a good drink along with it, can help to awaken the merriment that can sometimes lie dormant in the rigors of the daily grind. Life taking a turn for the spirited is a beautiful thing, and I thank the Good Doctor above, indeed, for such a marvelous and pleasurable prescription found in a little taste of good food and a little sip of good drink to help us to enjoy the gifts of our lives with a joyous and gratitude-filled spirit.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Apricot-Whiskey Glazed Chicken Roulade with a Savory, Dried Apricot & Toasted Pecan Herbed-Stuffing
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(Serves about 4)
1 large French roll (about 4 oz), torn into small pieces
10 dried apricots, finely chopped
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon toasted, chopped pecans
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon dry thyme, plus a little extra to sprinkle as garnish
½ cup warm chicken stock
2 ½ tablespoons melted unsalted butter
• Freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon whiskey
2 large, split chicken breasts (about 2 lbs total), bones removed but skin left on (*see note)
6 pieces of kitchen string (to hold roulade together)
• Apricot-Whiskey Glaze (recipe below)
(*If you cannot find chicken breasts with the bones removed but the skin still on, ask your butcher to prepare them for you; if you prefer to do it yourself, just use a sharp, flexible, fillet-style knife to slice the breast meat away from the bones, very carefully and slowly, keeping as much of the meat intact as possible.)
-Preheat the oven to 400°, and line a small baking sheet with foil.
-To prepare the stuffing, add the torn French roll into a bowl; next, add in the chopped apricots and pecans, the chopped parsley, thyme, chicken stock, melted butter, a couple of pinches of salt and freshly cracked black pepper, and the whiskey; using your hands, gently mix the ingredients together until well incorporated; set aside for a moment.
-To prepare your chicken breasts, begin by very gently removing the skin from each breast, taking care not to rip the skin (you will use it to wrap the roulade in), by running your fingers between the skin and the meat and gently pulling it away; try to take the skin off in one piece, and set it aside for a moment; next, take your now-skinless and boneless chicken breasts, and butterfly them both by slicing through the thickest part of the meat, being careful not to go all the way through to the other side (you will have a bigger, thinner breast of chicken); place the butterflied chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap, and using a mallet, gently pound out the breast until fairly thin, about ¼” or so.
-Season each chicken breast with some salt and pepper, plus a pinch or two of the dry thyme; to create the roulade, place one of the chicken breasts vertically in front of you, and add about half of the stuffing mixture to cover the whole breast, pressing a bit to allow for even rolling; beginning at the bottom, roll the chicken breast upward, and using 2-3 toothpicks, seal the seam of the roulade and allow it to rest seam-side down; next, take the skin that you removed earlier and gently fit it around the roulade in such a way as to cover as much of it as possible (you’re basically wrapping the roulade in it’s own skin); if there are extra “flaps” of skin, just tuck those underneath where the seam/toothpicks are, and place the chicken seam-side down on the baking sheet; repeat the process with the remaining chicken breast; next, tie three pieces of kitchen string around each roulade, spacing them evenly, to secure the skin in place during roasting, and to help the roulade keep its shape.
-To roast, take about ¼ cup of the Apricot-Whisky Glaze and brush it evenly over both of the roulades; next, add a pinch of salt and black pepper, plus another sprinkle of the dry thyme and a drizzle of olive oil over the roulades, and place them into the oven to roast for about 35 minutes, or until golden and cooked through, and the internal temp registers at 160°; remove from oven and allow the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes loosely covered with foil.
-To finish and plate, remove the kitchen strings and the toothpicks from the roulades, and slice each roulade carefully with a serrated knife (or even an electric knife, if you have one) into about 6 slices; serve 3 pieces per person on a bed of wild rice pilaf or fluffy, mashed red-skin potatoes, along with a little of the reserved, warm Apricot-Whisky Glaze to spoon over, if desired.
Apricot-Whisky Glaze ingredients:
1 ¼ cup all-natural apricot preserves
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
• Pinch salt
• Pinch black pepper
2 tablespoons whisky, divided use
½ tablespoon butter
-Add the apricot preserves, the apple cider vinegar, the pinch of salt/pepper and 1 tablespoon of the whisky into a small sauce pan, and whisk the ingredients together; place the sauce pan over medium-low heat, and allow the preserves to gently melt, whisking every now and then, for about 5 minutes or so until the preserves are a glaze-like consistency and warm; next, turn off the heat and add in the remaining tablespoon of whisky and the butter, and whisk to blend; keep warm. (*Set aside about ¼ cup of the glaze to use to baste the chicken roulades before they go in the oven, and use the remainder at the table to glaze the roasted roulades.)