The sweet, salty, nutty mess that spreads out over your plate as you eat is pure perfection.
I bought some local muscadine grapes at Whole Foods that looked plump and sweet, but you could use any grape that's in season. At first, the thought of grapes seemed a little odd, but then I thought of all the chicken salads I've had with grapes and how much I love fruit with parmesan, and it started to sound perfect. Especially with a little aromatic crunch from the toasted hazelnuts.
Stuffed chicken breast is one of those meals that seems fussy and difficult, and I'm sure some recipes fit that description, but this is definitely not one of them. This is exactly the kind of recipe I'd reserve for midweek dinners when I want something really satisfying. The sweet and savory flavors, along with the crunchy nuts and crispy skin, really deliver.
The trickiest thing about making stuffed chicken breast is how, exactly to make the slit for the stuffing, but really, as long as you make a pocket to stuff, you're fine! Slice as if you're going to butterfly the chicken breast in half, cutting with your knife parallel to the cutting board, but aim for a pocket instead of a full butterfly. A sharp, recently-honed knife is especially handy here.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Grapes, Hazelnuts, and Parmesan
2 medium bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts, skins removed (if necessary), toasted, and roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped seedless purple grapes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
More salt and pepper for seasoning
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Combine the hazelnuts, grapes, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add 1/2 tablespoon of softened butter and pinch with your fingers to combine the ingredients.
Pat chicken breasts dry, and make a deep slit along the meatiest side, cutting far into the breast with your knife parallel to the cutting board to create a pocket (but not slicing all the way through). Stuff small handfuls of the grape and nut mixture into the pockets, dividing it between both chicken breasts. Stick two or three toothpicks through the open edges of the chicken to keep the stuffing from falling out.
Loosen the skin on each chicken breast, and use your fingers to push small bits of the remaining butter under the skin of each one. Sprinkle the chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper. Place on a foil- or parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the skin is brown and crispy. Remove toothpicks before serving.
This recipe has been updated — first published October 2008.