Gouda-stuffed chicken, in spite of myself
A few weeks ago, we had our work holiday party. Besides the fact that there was lots of free food and free booze, there was also a raffle for lots of different things. I’m a sucker for raffles and giveaways and handouts—who doesn’t love free shit? I put some tickets in for the massage, but I really had my eye on the two wine-and-cheese gift baskets. One had some really excellent international imported cheeses (Parmesan and Gouda), and both had two bottles of wine. I wanted it. I went on and on about Gouda cheese as if I had any clue what I was talking about, saying idiotic things like, “It has a nice sharp tang,” and “it’s great to cook with,” when really all I was thinking was “It’s yummy.”
But I’m notorious for being unlucky. Once, while I was playing Blackjack, I once got six 13’s right in a row. My friend Amy, who’d only been at the company for a few weeks, won both baskets. Amy reached into the basket, pulled out the Gouda, and handed it to me. “Merry Christmas,” she said.
After profuse thanks and plenty of embarrassment on my end, I took the prized cheese back home (imported from Belgium!), put it in my fridge, and promptly forgot about it. I was getting ready to fly home for a week’s vacation and was trying to eat everything in the fridge (though not all at once) and saw the neat little packet. After all my big talk, I realized I’d actually have to cook with Gouda, something I’d claimed was awesome but really was just making assumptions. As always, I turned to the internet.
I found a recipe for Gouda-stuffed chicken with apples and a cider sauce and I was sold. The recipe included lots of my favorite things: apples, cheese, cider, and garlic, and I had everything in my refrigerator but the apples. I laid everything out and began to chop.
Apples and garlic were easy, no problem. But when I went to slice the Gouda into pieces thin enough for the chicken, it was like I was trying to cut a block of wax into wafer-thin slices. It kept cracking or slicing into ragged-edged chunks or tiny slivers. I got angry and started hacking at the Gouda, until it looked like this:
I decided I wouldn’t worry too much about thinness and I would just stuff the cheese in. They were my ingredients, weren’t they? They had best bow to my will. Next, I prepared to slice the chicken. As soon as I started cutting, I could tell that my knife was nowhere near sharp enough for this task. I performed a sort of improvised surgery on the chicken breasts. I sliced the chicken in half at the widest spot I could find, and then turned the chicken upright and used the point of the knife to carve it out from the inside, making a hole for the cheese. Pointing my knife into the raw meat started to make me feel a little squeamish, like I was performing actual surgery. I needed to sit down. I needed to not pass out. I got out some crackers, sat at the table, and started eating the cheese.
Not only did the Gouda cut like wax, it ate like wax. It wasn’t the taste so much, which was delicious as per usual, but it was harder than I remembered. I imagined biting down on a chewy bit of cheese in the middle of the chicken and felt discouraged. The package had said it was “Aged Gouda.” Isn’t all cheese aged? Was this cheese extra-aged? I wondered if cheese got harder and crustier in old age, like people. I was way too far along and way too stubborn to quit, so I crammed the way-too-large pieces of cheese into the chicken, stretching it thin, and started cooking.
I dipped the chicken in a mix of flour, salt, and pepper, and cooked it in a little oil. After a few minutes, the cheese started to bubble and ooze out of the chicken. I did a fist pump. The cheese wouldn’t be crusty after all, but would be melty goodness. It kept sliding out of the chicken, looking more like a slug than my queasy stomach cared for. I pushed it back in with my wooden spoon, and set the chicken aside.
Next, I simmered the apples in a mixture of sautéed garlic, chicken broth, and apple cider. That made the kitchen smell all rustic and I started to feel cocky and adorable. The recipe said the apples should cook for 12 minutes. By the time they were done, I checked on the chicken, and it was barely warm. The cheese had started to re-solidify. I didn’t want to ruin the beautiful crispy coating by putting it in the microwave, so I hoped that it was just the ends of the cheese that had hardened, and that the sauce would melt it a little more. And despite all the cheese I’d eaten, I was too hungry to want to wait any longer.
There was a lot of extra sauce and apples, but dear lord was it tasty. The apples and the cheese and the garlic went well together, and the cheese had stayed mostly melted. It turns out that my assumption was correct—Gouda is in fact good for cooking. The next time I make this, I’ll attempt to multi-task and do the chicken and the sauce at the same time. It will be almost as cool as juggling.
Remember, I’m always up for recipe suggestions, cooking tips, or ridicule.