Vail Colorful Cooking column: Try ‘nutty bird’ chicken recipe |

Vail Colorful Cooking column: Try ‘nutty bird’ chicken recipe

Special to the Daily

Chicken is eaten worldwide daily. One of the reasons this bird is so appetizing is because it serves as a blank palate for the flavors you’re craving. Chicken is healthy, too; a 4-ounce chicken breast is lean, has more than half your daily recommended amount of protein and 78 percent of your daily value for niacin, a cancer-fighting B vitamin.

We eat chicken at home weekly, so when dining out, I don’t order the chicken special. When I am eating out with anyone older than 20 and they order chicken, I judge them. Sorry, but it is true. Drink more than the daily recommended glass of wine or bourbon, eat three desserts and I won’t think a thing, but order chicken when out to dinner, and I will roll my eyes.

At dinner recently, I asked my date why order the chicken? She answered, snooty, with the question, ‘How do you cook chicken at home?’

I rattled off 10 chicken recipes while slugging down my second glass of wine, realizing I was being rude. What would Miss Manners have to say about my table talk? She’d possibly recommend an etiquette class.

Soon thereafter, I taught a cooking class highlighting nuts. Building an easy nut-encrusted dish, I decided on chicken as the protein. I fancied up a lean, skinless chicken breast and started teaching. It was an intimate class, so all three students were sitting at the counter asking a lot of questions, and it was then I realized not everyone can rattle off 10 chicken dishes.

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We started by butterflying the breast, cutting it horizontally through the middle and opening it up so it looks like a butterfly. Then, we stuffed it with a mixture of cheese, mint, pistachios and apricot jam, securing it closed with toothpicks. More pistachios nuts coated the top. In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, pistachios are considered one of the 100 most powerful antioxidant foods, a perfect accompaniment to the protein-rich chicken, sweet mint and apricot.

Cooking the chicken perfectly is the trick. Undercooking chicken can make people sick, so most of us overcook it. I wanted the nut crust to remain intact, so I was not going to flip the fowl. We started it in a hot pan on the stovetop and then finished it in the oven. Having a pan that can go in the oven is a secret to not overcooking any meat. Start by searing your meat on the stovetop, and then put it in the oven to finish.

Cooking this chicken dish is easy and fun and results in a flavorful, quality dish that would shut me up if you were ordering it in a restaurant. Really, your third bourbon?

Nutty bird

4 chicken breasts

11⁄4 cups pistachios, divided

1 cup ricotta or cream cheese

1⁄3 cup apricot preserves

1⁄4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butterfly chicken breasts, and season inside with salt and pepper.

Pulse 1 cup pistachios in food processor for 30 seconds until coarsely ground (consistency of panko bread crumbs). Combine cheese, apricot preserve, mint and 1⁄4 cup whole pistachios in bowl.

Heat a saute pan (that can go into the oven) over medium heat; coat with olive oil. Place 1⁄4 ricotta mixture into chicken breast, close, and seal with toothpicks. Repeat with all breasts.

Season outside of breasts with salt and pepper, and rub olive oil on top of breasts. Pat pulsed pistachios onto top of breasts, ensuring they stick. Place chicken in saute pan, pistachio side up, and cook for 10 minutes. Put chicken into oven, and cook for another 20 minutes.

When done cooking, allow chicken to rest 5 minutes; drizzle oil from the pan onto chicken.

Serves 4.

Tracy Miller is the Colorful Cook, adding fruits and veggies to every meal. She is the TV8 in-house chef, teaches cooking classes at Colorado Mountain College and hosts private, in-home cooking parties. Contact Miller at

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