Getting Stuffed

Stuffed chicken is such a neat idea, but sometimes it's just a lesson in frustration in practice. Goopy fillings that are next to impossible to get into a pocket cut into the chicken coupled with the likelihood that all of the filling will just ooze out when the chicken is cooking is enough to leave stuffed chicken in the land of theory. But what if there was a way to get around that?

I recently began wrapping a cheese-based filling in basil leaves and then sliding the little package of filling into my chicken pocket. Presto! Getting the filling into the chicken becomes a snap. And, if I make sure the most solidly covered part of the basil package is facing toward the opening of the chicken pocket, very little of the filling slides out during cooking. Suddenly, stuffing chicken seems like a great idea again.

I opted to go with a combination of cheeses, red peppers, and basil in this filling. Italian seasoning seemed like the obvious choice, given the flavors and colors of this dish. Heck, it could star quite beautifully in an Italian-themed dinner party! The chicken breasts I chose were on the large side and one breast was more than enough to feed two people, but I set the serving size for the recipe at 2-3 to allow for varying chicken breast sizes and appetites. Just trust me, you'll want to enjoy this quick-to-assemble dish over and over again!

Summer Stuffed Chicken

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces grated cheese -- choose your favorite variety
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, divided
  • 2-6 whole basil leaves -- depending on size
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a glass casserole dish with cooking spray. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut a pocket into the thickest side of each chicken breast. Slide the knife to the far edges of the inside of the breast without poking another hole in it.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, grated cheese, chopped red pepper and 2 teaspoons of the Italian seasoning in a small bowl. Laying the basil leaves in an overlapping pattern (or just use 2 large basil leaves), spoon half the cream cheese mixture into each "leaf satchel". Fold the leaves to form a basil pouch filled with the cream cheese mixture.

Carefully slide one basil pouch into the cavity you cut into each chicken breast. I like to make sure the part of the pouch most covered by basil is facing toward the opening of the chicken cavity to help limit how much filling bakes out. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with the remaining Italian seasoning.

Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes (until chicken is no longer pink) in the preheated oven. Pull chicken out of oven and turn the oven to a high broil. Sprinkle the chicken with Parmesan cheese. Broil the chicken until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Make sure you spoon any filling that comes out during baking onto the chicken when serving!

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 50 minutes