Company Chicken


For the stuffed chicken:
4 chicken breasts, boned but not skinned
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed ice
3 tablespoons chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup firmly packed cooked, squeezed, and chopped spinach (about 1/2 pound fresh)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the sauce:
1/2 cup Madeira
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon arrowroot dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Arrange the chicken breasts skin side down on a cutting board, making sure the skin is evenly stretched over the breasts, and remove the fillet strip from each breast discarding the white tendon.  In a food processor grind the fillets.  Add the ice, blend the mixture until the ice is absorbed, and with the motor running add the cream.  Add the spinach, the salt, the fennel seeds, the zest, the nutmeg, and the pepper and blend the filling well, scraping down the sides.  Turn the breasts skin side up and beginning at the pointed end pull the skin back carefully, leaving the thin trasparent membranes attached along a long side and leaving the skin attached at the opposite end.  Spread 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling evely over each breast, smoothing it, and stretch the skin over the filling to cover it.  Chill the chicken, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for 1 hour.  The chicken may be prepared up to this point 24 hours in advance and kept covered and chilled.  In a large ovenproof skillet heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken, skin side down, and season it with salt and pepper.  Saute the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown, turn it skin side up, and bake it, covered, in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Mine took longer because the breasts were large.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it stand, covered loosely with foil, for 5 minutes.

Make the sauce while the chicken is standing:  Pour off the fat from the skillet, add the Madeira, and boil it, scraping up the brown bits, until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.  Add the broth and boil the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir the arrowroot mixture, add it to the skillet, whisking, and simmer the sauce, whisking for 1 minute.

Holding a knife at a 45 degree angle slice the chicken crosswise and arrange the slices, overlapping them slightly, on a platter.  Spoon some of the sauce around the chicken and serve the remaining sauce separately.  Serves 4. 
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