PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA
This recipe is based on one of the very first dinners I ever made for friends: It was 1991, I was 16 years old and I cooked it straight from of my mother’s Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. At the time, chicken breasts stuffed with orange-scented leeks bathed in a cream sauce was very au courant; here in the 21st century I’ve added julienned carrots, ditched the cream for crème fraîche and swapped the mint for thyme, parsley and chives, making an altogether more modern dish. Finding boneless chicken breasts with the skin on can be difficult, but your butcher should be able to trim some for you. Or, if you’re skilled with a knife, buy two whole breasts and bone them yourself—this way you’ll have the carcass left over for stock.
4 boneless skin-on chicken breasts
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large leeks, split lengthwise and well-cleaned
2 fat carrots, peeled and julienned (very thinly sliced into matchsticks)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Zest of one orange, divided
¼ cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons minced chives
2 tablespoons minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place 1 chicken breast into a zip-top bag and pound flat with a mallet or the bottom of a small saucepan. Remove to a platter, flesh side up, and repeat with the remaining 3 breasts. Season flesh liberally with salt and pepper and set aside.
Slice 2 halves of 1 leek lengthwise into matchstick lengths and the 2 halves of the other leek crosswise into half-moons. Set aside.
In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add a dribble of olive oil. Add the leek matchsticks and the carrots, season with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring, 1–2 minutes, or until wilted. Add the thyme and ½ teaspoon orange zest and remove from the heat. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly in the pan.
Divide the sautéed carrots and leeks among the 4 flattened chicken breasts and roll up each to make a bundle; flip over, seam side down, and use a piece of kitchen string to tie each breast up like a package. Season the skins with salt and pepper.
Return the sauté pan to the stove over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sear the chicken bundles, skin side down, until deep golden brown. Flip over and remove the chicken to a baking dish; place the dish in the oven to finish cooking while you make the sauce, another 10–12 minutes total.
Return the sauté pan to medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the half-moon leeks and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring, until softened and lightly browned at the edges, then add the wine and remaining orange zest. Allow the wine to bubble away before adding the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and reduce until thick and syrupy, 4–5 minutes, then whisk in the crème fraîche. Add the chives and parsley, taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Keep warm. (If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water or broth until it’s the consistency of heavy cream.)
When the chicken is cooked through (165°F on an instant-read thermometer), remove from the oven, snip and remove the strings and set aside to rest 5 minutes. Spoon some of the sauce on the bottom of each plate and top with a chicken bundle. Serve with boiled new potatoes and a green salad.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, soccer mom, Italophile and managing editor at Edible Boston. She can be reached at email@example.com.