Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Oysters

Supposedly aphrodisiac oysters appear in the following recipe, which I developed for a Valentine’s Day dinner, and thereafter used it on a number of occasions, as it tastes so good and is easy to cook.

This use of oysters with meat, particularly poultry, has very long traditions in English cookery, dating back to a time when oysters were part of the everyday diet, and not a luxury. The practice still survives in the traditional American kitchen, where oysters are used to stuff turkey. For this recipe, four or six oysters will be sufficient. It is a very useful recipe, as quantities can be multiplied to serve six or a dozen guests.

For up to six, I cook the chicken breasts in a frying pan. More than that I cook in the oven, with generous bastings of buttery, oystery juices to stop the meat drying. Chicken liver and/or mushrooms can be used in the stuffing for those not able to eat oysters.

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Ingredients

  • 2 free-range or organic chicken breasts
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt
  • ground mace or freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ celery stalk, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 50 mls (2 oz) milk
  • 2 slices white bread, crust removed
  • generous sprig of tarragon, finely chopped
  • 4 or 6 fresh oysters, shucked, and the liquor reserved
  • seasoned flour
  • 1 free-range egg – optional
  • breadcrumbs for coating – optional
  • 25 g (1 oz) butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons dry white wine or champagne
  • lemon slices – for garnish

Method

Remove the arrow-shaped fillet from under the breast and use in another dish -I find it the perfect amount of meat for chicken risotto.

Cut a pocket in each chicken breast with the point of a sharp knife, and season the meat lightly. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the stuffing. Simmer the shallot and celery in the milk until soft, then put to one side. Crumble the bread and put in a bowl with the drained vegetables, the chopped tarragon and enough milk to bind together.

Divide the stuffing in four, and fill each breast with first some stuffing, then the oysters, then the remaining stuffing. Secure closed with cocktail sticks. Dust with seasoned flour, dipping in beaten egg, and coating with breadcrumbs if you wish. Fry in the butter until the chicken is cooked through, and the outside golden brown.

Make a gravy with the pan juices, wine or champagne and the reserved oyster liquid. Pour around the chicken, and garnish with lemon slices. My favourite thing to serve with the oyster-stuffed chicken, apart from mashed potatoes, is wilted spinach or cooked cucumber.

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