Food

Chicken is just a Vehicle

Mixing spices
Mixing spices

Honestly, that’s what I told the First Reader when I was getting ready to make this recipe.

“It’s not about the chicken,” I told him, leaning over the  meat selection at the grocery store. “It’s about the other flavors. You don’t like chicken because it’s bland, but by the time this is done” – I scooped up a pack of boneless skinless thighs, on sale – “you will barely know there’s chicken in it.”

“You know I’ll eat pretty much anything,” he reassured me, dropping two packages of bacon into the cart. I looked at them.

“I already picked up some bacon. But it won’t go to waste.”

I was getting ready to make cheese-stuffed, bacon wrapped chicken for dinner. Although I rarely have time to cook at home anymore, I miss it, and I had a three day weekend. I was going to make something! I know how he feels about both cheese and bacon, and my only regret about this meal is that I didn’t incorporate mushrooms for him. Guess that means I’ll have to make it again soon.

The recipe I was working from called for

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used thighs)
  • Bacon
  • Smoked Gouda (we used three cheeses)
  • garlic powder
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Black pepper
Pieces of cheese for stuffing
Pieces of cheese for stuffing

I mixed the spices in a small bowl and set them aside. I cut about 6 small pieces of the cheese and set it with the spices. Working with a sheet of saran wrap on a cutting board, I spread out three thighs, having decided that was going to be enough for the two of us, and covered them with another sheet of saran wrap. I pounded the meat until it was evenly thin, about 1/4 inch, and realized why thighs are not usually used for this, they tend to fall apart. Fortunately, the bacon holds them together, and really, the chicken is a vehicle to hold the cheese in during cooking.

Pounding out chicken thighs
Pounding out chicken thighs

I sprinkled spices on both sides of my flat meat, and laid pieces of cheese along them lengthwise. Then I rolled them up into logs and started wrapping bacon around them, tucking the end of the bacon under itself at the beginning, and spiraling from there to the other end. I discovered that each piece of chicken needed about 1 1/2 pieces of bacon, but with larger breasts that might change.

Frying to crisp the bacon
Frying to crisp the bacon
French Bread
French Bread

Once I had the cheese, bacon, and chicken all ready, I put them on the hot flat griddle which I’d preheated to about 350 deg. You can’t really get bacon crispy with just the oven. My oven was already hot, as I’d been baking a loaf of french bread to go with this meal, but this would be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 deg. I turned the stuffed chicken to crisp the bacon on all sides, and then transferred them to a baking pan to finish in the oven for 20 minutes.

They came out beautifully and tasty, and fed the two of us, plus an unexpected guest who arrived in a very timely fashion (for him). I served them cut up so we could try the different cheeses, alongside big slices of fresh hot buttered bread and steamed veggies. More work than my usual meals here at home, but very much worth it. I found that a lot of the grease cooked out in the griddle and the baking pan, so they weren’t greasy like I’d feared, but they were very rich.

The different flavors of the cheese were a bit lost in all that bacon, but the nibbles during cooking were good, smoked gouda has long been a favorite of mine. I don’t think it really mattered in this recipe.

Mmm! Dinner...
Mmm! Dinner…

0 thoughts on “Chicken is just a Vehicle

  1. Maybe this sounds funny but I’ve never actually pounded out any meat. I guess that’s because my mother never did. But I bought a meat pounder because I was going to make chicken cordon bleu. I know in my head that pounding the chicken can’t possibly destroy the texture and turn it mealy, but my heart? That insists that I’d be ruining a perfectly good piece of meat.

  2. You can’t really get bacon crispy with just the oven.

    Actually, you can but the bacon has to be by itself (not in combination with something providing moisture that prevents it from crisping up) and you have to get the timing just right. Too soon, it’s not crisp. Too long, it’s burned. 400 degrees at about 13 minutes (give or take depending on how thick the slices are) is about right in my oven.

    This is actually how I cook bacon for Athena’s breakfasts in the mornings

    1. Yes, you’re absolutely right, and I should have been clearer. I bake bacon on a rack placed over a half-sheet pan as you’ve described (and Alton Brown does a bit on this, if you have netflix and Good Eats). I can do about a pound at a time, plus have al the drippings for other recipes.

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