Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pimiento Cheese-Stuffed Chicken

Pimiento cheese is not something I grew up with.  I think the first time I heard of it was a Bon Appetit travel article, that directed people to a restaurant that served a grilled cheese sandwich made with the spread and bacon.  I was intrigued, and it turned out to be a bit of a gateway drug for me.  After that, I took pimiento cheese and baguette slices to cocktail parties at friends' houses, made mac 'n' cheese with it, and continued to make sandwiches, with or without bacon.

But I didn't make these things often, because, well, it's really an indulgence.  Cheese held together with mayo, and often with some bacon for good measure, is not something that is really reasonable for regular consumption in my world.  So when I saw pimiento cheese included in a Cooking Light recipe, I was more than a little excited that this occasional treat may be able to find its way into the dinner rotation a little more often.

This stuffed chicken breast gets you the rich flavors and ooey-gooey texture of the traditional spread, but with a much healthier delivery method for a smaller quantity.  Served over some brown rice to catch the spillover filling and a crunchy salad, this was a really fun weeknight dinner.

Pimiento Cheese-Stuffed Chicken

What's in it:

1  slice applewood-smoked bacon
3/4  cup  shredded cheddar cheese (I used a mix of white cheddar and extra-sharp yellow)
2  tablespoons  minced green onions
1 1/2  tablespoons  diced pimientos (I used jarred roasted red peppers)
1  tablespoon  canola mayonnaise
2  teaspoons  fresh lemon juice
1/2  teaspoon  hot sauce
1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
1  tablespoon  canola oil

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook bacon in a large ovenproof skillet until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Combine bacon, next 6 ingredients, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cut a 1-inch-wide slit into the thick end of each breast half; carefully cut down to the center of chicken to form a deep pocket. Divide cheese mixture evenly among pockets. Secure with wooden picks. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to drippings. Add chicken to pan; saute 4 minutes. Turn chicken over. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes; let stand for 5 minutes.

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