A few weeks ago I was in State College, PA doing a little shopping and ran across a special fall issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine. I love Cook Illustrated and with fall coming, I had to have it. In the issue was a stuffed chicken recipe that sounded so good I had to make it right away. The recipe calls for fresh bread crumbs and I decided to use fresh and dried to see if there was a difference. There really wasn’t a huge difference so if you don’t want to make the fresh bread crumbs, dried will work just fine. I didn’t pound the chicken breasts thin enough and wished I had. Some of the cheese mixture did end up leaking out of the chicken while it was baking. Make sure to pound the chicken thin so you can get a good seal on the filling. The cheese filling is really tasty and you don’t want to waste any of it.
What’s nice about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time up to stage 4. When ready to cook you can continue stage 5-6.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Ham, Cheddar and Thyme
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5-6 oz each), tenderloins removed and reserved for another use
- 4 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into 1 inch pieces. (or 3 cups of dried bread crumbs)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup plus 1 tbs vegetable oil
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 medium-garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (1 tsp)
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 8 oz chedder cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- salt and pepper
- 8 slices (about 8 oz) thin-sliced cooked deli ham
- Place each chicken breast in a large ziplock bag or on a large sheet of plastic wrap, cover with second sheet and pound with meat pounder or rolling pin till 1/4 inch thick throughout. Each pounded breast should measure roughly 6 inches wide and 8 1/2 inches long. Cover and refrigerate while preparing filling.
- Heat butter in medium skillet over low heat until melted; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer; set aside.
- In medium bowl using hand-held mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stir in onion mixture, thyme, and cheddar; season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Place breasts skinned side down on work surface; season with salt and pepper. Fill with cheese and ham, roll and wrap each breast tightly in foil, twisting the foil ends in opposite directions. Refrigerate at least for 45 minutes or more.
- If not using dried bread crumbs: pulse bread in food processor until evenly textured, 8-10 one second pulses ( you should have 3 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs). Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread flour in pie plate or shallow baking dish. Beat eggs with 1 tbs vegetable oil and 1 tbs water in second pie plate or shallow baking dish. Spread bread crumbs in third pie plate or shallow baking dish. Unwrap chicken breasts. Roll 1 stuffed chicken breast in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, then roll breast in egg mixture; let excess drip off. Transfer breast to bread crumbs; shake dish to roll breast in crumbs, then press with fingers to adhere crumbs. Place breaded chicken breast on large wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining breasts.
- Heat 3/4 cup oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add 4 chicken breasts to skillet, seam side down, and cook until medium golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn each breast and cook until medium golden brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Return chicken breasts, seam side down, to baking sheet. Add remaining 1/4 cup oil to skillet and repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Once all chicken breasts have been fried, place baking sheet in oven and bake breasts until deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of each breast registers 160 degrees, about 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing each breast crosswise diagonally into 4 to 5 medallions; arrange on individual dinner plates and serve.