Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicken Breasts Filled with Cheese Spread

Today, I will give you two recipes. I don't often focus on the recipe for sides because, often, it means me pulling a steamable vegetable out of the freezer and throwing it in the microwave while the entree finishes cooking. This, however, is one of the few standby vegetable recipes I come back to again and again because it is SO yummy and that's roasted asparagus. But, before we get to the recipe for that, let's talk about the chicken. This chicken is a work in progress for me. It's something I through together myself but I don't want to really call it my recipe. It's basically take a few techniques that I've seen over and over and trying to make it work with what I have. It takes regular boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and marries it with Allouette® cheese spread and makes one delicious mouthful. It started because I saw it on 'Manager's Special' in my local grocer which mean it was going to go past it's sell by date VERY soon. The thing I realized was it is a cheese and cheeses often last past their sell by date. As long as it isn't moldy or sour smelling, it is still okay in my book. So I bought it for 50% off. The first time it was the Garlic and Herb variety and I took the chicken breast halves and split them horizontally to make twice as many. This does a few things, first it is a budget saver since you are obviously getting twice as much product for your money. Alternatively, if you are not worried about your budget and want to save time, you can buy the thin cut breasts at the grocer but they are a little pricier. The second reason why I treated the chicken in this way the first time was because I put a 'blob' of spread at the thickest end and then rolled my chicken around it. 
First attempt, rolled
Without cutting them thin, I would have never been able to roll it up in a tight compact manor. The problem with this technique was I had to add alot of toothpicks to secure the cheese inside the chicken and it was just a pain. Plus, I worried about the temperature reaching fully cooked on the inside and the outside ended up getting VERY dark. Delicious but still, not appealing looking. The recipe that follows is what I made today and was much easier and I think is what I will do in the future. The cheese spread is a little on the expensive side but really is delicious and often goes on special in my town so this recipe will be returning to my kitchen in the future.

Cheese Spread Filled Chicken Breasts
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 container Allouette® cheese spread, any flavor (I preferred the Sundried Tomato Basil variety)
Panko Bread Crumbs for coating (I tossed with a little Mrs. Dash garlic and herb seasoning to add more flavor)

Working very carefully, take a small paring knife and insert it horizontally into the thickest part of the breast. Carefully, without piercing a hole in the top or bottom halves of the breast, move the knife from one side and then the other creating a pocket as far down towards the tip of the breast you can. Fill a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag with the cheese spread. (If using a resealable bag, cut a corner off to make a homemade piping bag.) Insert the tip as far down into the chicken pocket as you can and begin to pipe the spread into the breast. You can apply pressure to the chicken to help evenly distribute the spread further down the toward the other end of the breast. When filled, dredge in panko crumbs and saute in a little olive oil over medium to medium high heat. If the outsides begin to brown and you don't think the center will be done in time, I covered mine for a few minutes to help cook them more evenly. Some of the cheese did run out during cooking but I just scooped it out of the pan and put it over the breasts.

Roasted Asparagus
As much asparagus as you will need to feed your diners (I get 2 medium bunches)
A couple good Tablespoons olive oil just to coat asparagus
1 to 2 teaspoons seasoning of your choice (I use several good shakes of Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning - incidentally the same thing I used to season the panko crumbs above)

Leaving the majority of asparagus in its bundle, hold 1 or 2 individual spears of asparagus at either end and bend until it breaks at it's natural weak spot. Trim the rest of the spears to this length and discard tough ends a place whole spears on cookie sheet. Toss in oil and seasoning. Bake at 425F for about 15 to 20 min or until desired doneness, tossing halfway through cooking. I like my asparagus roasted a little longer until it gets a little brown on the tips and gets a nutty tasting but I also appreciate a crisp-tender asparagus. Try it out a couple different ways and see what works best for you. (The picture at the top of the post is done lighter than the asparagus accompanying the chicken. Both delicious just a matter of personal preference.)