Imperial-Style Chicken

SERVES 4

Istanbul chef, Vedat Bas¸aran, adapted this Ottoman recipe for a modern restaurant kitchen.

6 tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled and skinned
1/4 cup blanched almond halves
3/4 cup basmati rice
1 1/4 cups hot chicken stock
1 tbsp. currants
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground mastic
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. diced tomato pulp
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
2 whole boneless chicken breasts, skin on

1. Melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a medium-size heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, pistachios, and almonds and saute for 3 minutes. Stir in rice and saute for 2 more minutes. Add stock, currants, pine nuts, cinnamon, and mastic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and dill; adjust seasonings. Set pilaf aside; cover to keep warm.

2. Preheat oven to 500°. Cut breasts in half and butterfly each so it opens like a book. Remove tenderloin (small strip of flesh on underside of breast) from each piece and set aside. Cover each chicken breast with a piece of plastic wrap and pound with a kitchen mallet to a thickness of 1/4''. Repeat with tenderloins.

3. Melt remaining 4 tbsp. butter in a small pan over low heat. Put breasts skin side down on a work surface, brush with melted butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Put about 1/3 cup pilaf in the middle of each breast, lay tenderloins on top, and fold up sides to encase pilaf. Transfer breasts skin side up to a buttered baking dish. Brush with remaining butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, then brown in broiler for about 3 minutes. Remove from oven and slice each breast into 4 pieces. Serve on a bed of creamed spinach, if you like.