Introduction: New England Baked Chicken
I've since moved, but I miss the flavors of home. So I tend to cook stuff when I can that reminds me of New England. This dish takes a coupla different flavors & mixes them together.
This is my first instructable, so criticism is welcome, but please be gentle :-)
Here are the ingredients:
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast. The ready to go packages usually work better than the breasts from the flash frozen bags
Olive Oil, pretty easy
McCormick's Smokehouse Maple Seasoning
McIntosh Apples. Quintessential New England & perfect apple taste.
Cheddar Cheese. I prefer to use Cabot block cheeses, but all I had this time was the cheddar slices. The slices worked better, but I still prefer the Cabot
BACON. Maple smoked works great, but any hardwood smoked bacon would work good.
Tools you will need:
Sharp knife. I can't stress the Sharp enough. That particular knife you see, I sharpen before every use. My wife thinks I'm nuts, but she loves the way it just glides through a tomato.
Container for the apple pieces
Toothpicks. You may or may not need these depending on how well you do...
For these four breasts, I used two apples, four slices of cheese, and 8 slices of bacon. Scale it to what you need & to your tastes, obviously.
Step 1: Prep Work
This can be interesting depending on how much cooking you do & how comfortable you are in the kitchen. I muck about in it quite a bit now, but it took me a while to get some of these techniques down.
1st, peel the apples & then core them. Once that is done, you need to slice them pretty thin. See the (poor) picture below for a rough idea. These are being stuffed inside of a chicken breast, small is good.
2nd, if you didn't cheat like I did, and have block cheese, you need to cut it. again, thin is key here. Cutting cheese has always been a bit difficult for me, but I've persevered.
3rd, butterfly the chicken. This was the step I had trouble with. I tried to include a picture below, but I don't think it helps. Basically, you need to compress the breast with your hand & then cut through it at the middle. If you get it right, it should look like the other picture.
This would also be a good time to talk about a plan B. If you mess up the chicken, don't freak out. Just use it to make something else and then try again later. Though if you pay attention, you should be able to make it workable.
Step 2: Stuffing
Time to stuff, season, and wrap the breasts. Now would also be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take the cheese and apples and arrange it over the center of the butterflied breast. Fold the chicken back over. Some people may be more comfortable toothpicking the breasts shut, but remember. Every toothpick you put into it now, you have to pull out later when it won't be as easy,
Once you have your breasts stuffed, you need to rub in the seasoning. Or it may be easier for you to season and then stuff. Either way, you need to massage a liberal amount of seasoning into the chicken.
Once the chicken is seasoned and stuffed, its time to wrap! I usually use 2 slices of bacon per breast. Depending on how you do it, you can start the wrap on top & toothpick it in or start on the bottom.
I've actually bit into toothpicks in other dishes, so I try to avoid them. However, if you're not a maestro in the kitchen, don't worry about it. Just grab some sanitized pliers to pull them out as I always find they get stuck and are a pain in the ass to remove if they go in down the side of the breast.
Sprinkle some seasoning in the bottom of your baking pan before you put them in...
Step 3: Bake!
Once you've got the breasts in the pan, sprinkle any left over apple slices over the top. Add any "extra" cheese as well. LIGHTLY drizzle some olive oil on the top. You don't need a lot as the bacon and chicken will both produce grease and fat to keep things moist. The oil is more of a safety measure and for the apple pieces.
Put the pan in the over at 350 degrees. If you're not sure what temperature to cook something at, 350 is a good guess. Unless you're baking. Then it could be bad.
Let them bake for a while. Usually about a half hour and pull the pan out. Check to make sure they are done and let them rest a little. The bacon won't be crispy, it will be chewy.
Step 4: Serving and Final Notes
Once they've had a chance to rest a little, its time to serve them.
I usually serve with mashed potatoes, green beans in a bit of butter, and another vegetable.
The breasts should be nice and juicy. I do recommend steak knives at the table to cut the breasts & bacon.
I have made these in the past using apples other than macs. I've used gala, fiji, and pink ladies. The fiji apples were the best substitute. I don't think Red Delicious apples would work real well.
I've also had variations of this using Baby Bel swiss cheese (the ones in the little red wheels, something like 4 to a "net") and Granny Smith apples without the bacon and seasoning. Don't be afraid to experiment...
I hope you enjoy it. I'm planning on putting up an instructable for my New England Clam Chowder next, but it may be a while.
Thanks for reading!