Friday, June 29, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This dish is basically a jalapeno popper chopped up and stuffed inside a chicken breast. I stole the idea from Skinnytaste but modified it a bit; primarily because I forgot to buy a few of the ingredients. Oh well, you live and you learn. This dish takes about an hour start to finish (it took me a little bit longer because I was taking pictures the entire time), with about 20-25 minutes of that time involving cooking; so during the time the food is in the oven, you can do other things to help maximize post-work enjoyment time.

You will need:

one package chicken breasts (if you can find the kind that are thin sliced cutlets that will definitely cut down on your prep time but my grocery store was out of them when I went shopping)
One large container of whipped cream cheese (reduced fat would be preferable but I had this one left over from another recipe I made for a party and I don't believe in bringing reduced fat anything to celebratory occasions)
Reduced fat shredded colby & monterey jack cheese
Two limes
3 Jalapenos (note: I only put two jalapenos in my recipe because I am a bit of a wuss, and it was barely spicy at all)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Garlic Powder
Panko bread crumbs, italian style (I know it's not in the picture; I forgot I had them in my cupboard until halfway through when all the other ingredients were scattered)
Tooth picks are going to be very helpful, also.

Preheat your oven to 425.

For those of you who have the thin sliced cutlets, you can ignore this part of the prep. For those of you who do not, slice your chicken breasts in half horizontally so that you are basically making them thinner (skinnier) versions of themselves. If only I could do this to my thighs.

The next step is really therapeutic if you've had a bad day at work. Take a piece of wax paper (parchment paper works too) and put it over the chicken. Using the blunt side of a mallet, pound the chicken until it's thin. Make sure you move the mallet all over the chicken as you're pounding, otherwise you'll tear right through the chicken.

Now, we turn our attention to the filling. Take your jalapenos and dice them, removing the seeds and membranes as you go. NOTE ABOUT CHOPPING JALAPENOS: They sting. If you are a nail biter or otherwise have hidden tiny little cuts on your hands, they will HURT FOREVER. Also, they release juices and aromas that will make your nose and mouth burn. 

This is why I made J (my fiance) chop the jalapenos. 

I don't really have any advice on how to get through it if you must do it yourself, except perhaps wear gloves and just chop quickly. 

With regards to how much jalapeno to put in, like I said before, I put two of them in with no seeds, and although it was spicy on my hands, it was not spicy in my mouth at all, but imparted a good southwestern flavor. I think I will move it up to three of them next time, with no seeds, but if you really like that heat then definitely throw some of the seeds in there. I would not recommend putting in any less than two jalapenos, because I think you'd lose the actual flavor of the dish at that point, but again, it's up to you.

In a glass bowl, scoop 2/3 of the container of cream cheese into the bowl. Then add about 4 ounces of the shredded cheese (1/2 a cup). To save on time and dishes, one of those packages of cheese is typically 7 or 8 ounces; so I usually dump in about half of a bag of cheese. Dump the jalapenos in, and season it with a tiny bit of garlic powder. If you have it, you could add a couple of pieces of crumbled up bacon, but J doesn't eat pork, so I don't include it. Mix it all up with a spoon.

Now, let's turn our attention back to the chicken breasts. In a smaller bowl, mix together 1 tbsp of olive oil and the juice of 1 1/2 limes. Throw in some sea salt and garlic power in that mixture. On a plate, pour out some of your panko bread crumbs (not a lot, but you're going to be coating chicken).

Dip each chicken piece in the oil/juice mixture then lightly in the bread crumbs, giving it a light coating on each side. I typically do this step and the next one chicken breast at a time, but you could do all of the chicken then all of the cream cheese, whatever you'd prefer.

Spread some of the cream cheese mixture onto the chicken breast.

Roll the chicken breasts up and stick tooth picks in them to make them stay put. Put them all in a non-stick spray coated glass baking dish.

Pop those bad boys in the oven, enjoy a glass of wine for 20-25 minutes or until the bread crumbs start to brown and the cheese is bubbling nicely, then pull them out, serve, and enjoy!

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