Monday, July 2, 2012

Winner , Winner ...


Even were a cook to cook a fly, he would keep the breast for himself.
                                                  ~ Polish  Proverb


Growing up, my mother cooked everyday. Yeah, we’d occasionally get a pizza night or go out to that seafood place with the big red bottom dwelling crustacean. But most of the time, she’d be slaving away in the kitchen, cooking up a storm for who ever was home, living or visiting. I was always a fan of her cooking but some dishes I liked more than others. This was one of those dishes.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts.

Yeah, that’s it. Simple. Nothing fancy, no special sauce or crazy cooking technique, just a regular ol’ stuffed chicken breast.

Why am I putting something so simple on here? Well, a few reasons:

First, it’s my blog; I’ll do what I want. You don’t like it, go watch the Food Network till your eyes burn (usually takes about 3 minutes). Second, like I said, I always enjoyed it. And if stuffed chicken breasts aren’t in your regular rotation of things to make for dinner, it damn well better be now. And lastly, you’d be surprised at how the simplest things are often overlooked because they have a “Chef/Kitchen Master Required” reputation. I hope to put an end to reputations like that for a few dishes, so let this be the first.

Want to know how simple I’m talking? It’s getting stuffed with Stove Top Stuffing! Oh yeah, I just went there. If you just buy this stuff(ing!) for Thanksgiving you’re missing out!

Don’t get me wrong, I know how to make proper stuffing. Only problem is it takes too damn long. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a stay-at-home Dad; I don’t have time to be slaving over a cutting board and hot stove if I don’t have to. Stove Top is the perfect way to make this an easy, quick, and memorable meal. And if you don’t agree, remember, it’s my blog!

Quick story: When I was in Culinary School, I was taught the importance of making things from scratch and how much better it was. So for practice, I’d give my mom a few nights off while I cooked the meal. I did crazy, crazy things like make my own pizza - sauce and dough - from scratch. And make things like stuffing for stuffed chicken from scratch. In the end, although tasty, the time it took for me to cut all the ingredients, get everything sorted and cooked, I could’ve made 3 meals if I was not making from scratch.

So here I am, 10 years later. Looking back and laughing at myself. Not jokingly either, I’m totally mocking me.

I still know the importance of cooking from scratch. Only now, I know when it matters, and when I should just use something out of a box.

Stuffing chicken is one of those times.

So here it is:

Stuffed Chicken Breast:

        (however many needed) ~ Chicken Breasts, boneless skinless
                                     1 box ~ Stove Top Stuffing Mix
                                     To Top ~ Bread Crumbs and/or Grated Parmesan Cheese
                                     To Taste ~ Seasoning
                                     3x each breast ~ Toothpicks
                                                               Olive oil

Depending on how many people you're cooking for, 1 box of Stuffing should be able to stuff 4 decently sized breasts.

  • Before you even touch the chicken, get the stuffing fixed

You do the method you prefer following the box instructions, but I’m keen to the microwave. Hey, you’re already using something out of a box, why waste time cooking on the stove?! Once done, check out the size of the chicken breasts because you’ll want to set aside however much stuffing you’ll be using to actually stuff with into a separate bowl so you won’t cross contaminate. Nobody likes salmonella in their stuffing. Well, maybe models.

  • Pre heat the oven to 350°. Once the stuffing is ready in its own bowl with a spoon, get some aluminum foil on a sheet tray and hit it with cooking spray. Then take the breadcrumbs and/or parmesan cheese and mix them in a little container. You’ll probably be using a tablespoon of each per breast, once that’s mixed, set it aside in arms reach, along with the bowl of stuffing, the toothpicks, and whatever spices you’re going to be using. (Not sure of what spices to use? Intimidated by the aromas? Don’t know that there is more than one type of salt? Check This Out First. I beg of you) 

Be prepared! It’s always good to do a mental rundown of how you’re going to do something, especially with chicken. You don’t want to have your hands full of raw chicken and remember that you didn't foil the pan or get your seasonings out. I know I hate that.

Another good tip: When you’re dealing with any meat, always try to use only one hand to handle it and keep the other hand dry. The other hand will wield a knife or sprinkle the seasoning, whatever it does it’ll be clean, just in case, you know, you have an itch or something. Which I can almost guarantee, with the utmost confidence, you’ll get once you start the prep.

  • Now that everything is ready to go, stick the knife HALF WAY in your chicken and slice it like so:

  • You want to make a pocket. You don’t want to slide your knife in one end and out the other, you’ll just filet it; and instead of stuffed chicken you’ll look like a crazy person serving Stove Top between two chicken strips. Huge difference. 

Once you made the initial cut, look inside to see if the pocket is big enough. You can go to about a quarter of an inch from the edges and be ok. If you go too far, or slice a hole in the bottom of the breast, for the love of God, don’t freak out. It’s not the end of the world; it’s just food, so stop crying.

  • Once the pocket is ready, it’s time to season. Season the top, bottom, inside - everywhere. When you have a nice coating of seasoning, get 2 or 3 spoonfuls of stuffing into the pocket. Pack it in there nice and tight, if you did cut a hole or whatever just hold it to make sure nothing comes out of it. You want to pack it in there enough so that you can’t close the pocket completely, but it’s also not falling out of it

  • Once the pocket is packed, place it on the sheet tray and do the others. When you’re done, get your toothpicks and stick 3 of them along the opening of the pocket. You want them to act like stitches so that it doesn’t open up when it’s cooking and stays a nice closed shape. 

I use toothpicks when traditionally you would use butchers twine to tie up your meat. But honestly, who has butchers twine just sitting in their kitchen drawer? … Ok, maybe I’m the only one that doesn’t. But still, there’s a better chance the regular person would have toothpicks and not butchers twine. Plus it’s easier to just pluck them out.

For crying out loud, don’t forget to pluck them out. If you forget one time, trust me from experience, you’ll never forget again.

Ok, Breasts are stuffed, and poked and ready on the tray. If you were handling them a lot and rubbed off some of the seasoning, don’t be afraid to sprinkle a little more. But just a little.

  • Next, sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the breasts. Pat it down so that it kind of gets in there. I like to be generous with the breadcrumbs because I love the texture and taste. Ok, maybe generous is an understatement. Once the breadcrumbs are on, drizzle some olive oil on top to help with the browning and throw that tray in the oven! 

  • Set it for 20-25 minutes, depending on size. Wash your hands and then give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it. 

You can make whatever else you like as a side, but the leftover stuffing is usually enough for us. I like my stuffing a little crispy so I put it on the same tray as the chicken halfway through cooking so it could warm up and get toasty.

Once it comes out, find yours and give it a little slice in the thickest part just to make sure it’s cooked (never be too sure with chicken, and all ovens are different). You could check the temperature with a thermometer or watch the color of the juices flowing out of it, but really, who has time for that? Slice the sucker in the back and peak inside. And remember:


This is a nice looking meal once it’s done. It looks like you spent a lot longer on it than what you really did, so it’s good for impressing company or loved ones. We’re simple so we just plop it on the plate and go to town, but if you want to make it presentable, slice it 4 or 5 times on a bias (at an angle), and leave out the ends. Fan it out on a plate with a few vegetables and maybe some garlic mashed potatoes. Boom, color someone impressed!

Ok, I’m getting carried away.


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