Kids love to help prepare Southwest-style entree

Entertaining

Chicken breasts stuffed, grilled with adult's assistance

Sunday Gourmet

Entertaining

October 19, 2003|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

Friends know that I love to plan menus, so they call me routinely for advice about what to serve at their dinner parties. This past week, for example, an assistant who helps me test recipes came to work with a request. She had volunteered to take care of her 8-year-old niece and 13-year-old nephew while her sister and husband took a weekend vacation. The kids, my pal explained, loved to cook but were picky eaters, so she was searching for foods they would enjoy helping her prepare, then sample on Friday and Saturday nights.

We decided on a recipe for Southwestern stuffed chicken breasts that we thought would appeal to young palates.

Several days later, my friend called with a report that the chicken had been a huge success. The youngsters had helped combine the filling and had watched as their aunt made slits to form pockets in each breast. They then stuffed the breasts and looked on as they were grilled.

To go with the poultry, the aspiring chefs chose a mixed green salad and steamed rice, and for dessert they baked peanut butter cookies. Picky eaters always eat their own creations!

Chicken Breasts Stuffed With Chiles, Bacon and Cheese

Serves 6

Six 6- to 7-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat

1 to 2 limes

6 slices (5 to 6 ounces) bacon

3/4 cup chopped yellow onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 large serrano chile

1 cup grated pepper jack cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

vegetable oil for oiling grill rack

Soak 6 short wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before using. Pat dry. (Metal skewers can also be used but do not need soaking.)

Remove the small strip of meat called the fillet from the underside of each breast and save for another use. Using a sharp paring knife held parallel (horizontal) to the work surface, make a pocket about 4 to 5 inches wide and 2 inches deep in each breast. Set breasts aside while you prepare the filling.

Zest limes to yield 1 1/2 teaspoons; then juice limes. Set zest and juice aside.

Fry bacon in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels, then crumble bacon.

Pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of drippings in skillet and return skillet to medium heat. When hot, add onion and garlic and saute until onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped serrano chile. Place mixture in a medium bowl, cool completely and then stir in grated cheese, parsley, 1/8 teaspoon salt, cayenne, crumbled bacon and lime zest. Mix well.

Divide cheese mixture into 6 equal portions and stuff each breast with filling. Secure with skewers. (Breasts can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

When ready to cook chicken, oil a grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature). Grill until chicken springs back when touched with your fingers and juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Internal temperature should be 170 degrees. (Chicken can also be cooked on a stove-top grill pan.)

Remove skewers and arrange chicken breasts on a platter. Pour some reserved lime juice over each breast and season with salt, if desired.

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