Whenever I need to come up with an easy gourmet dinner to make at home, stuffed chicken breasts are my favorite go-to.
Hey, how can you go wrong with stuffed chicken breasts for a gourmet twist on a classic dinner?
I harken back to my days in New York City whenever I have stuffed chicken breasts. I’ve been to many gourmet restaurants, and have even worked at a few in New York and Boston, and amid the array of foie gras, truffles, and haricots verts, there are a few standout dishes that come to mind, and one of them is much simpler than you may think…
Wait for it…
… baked stuffed chicken breast recipes!
It was quite some years ago, but I still remember the day I cut into the succulent, golden breast of chicken that changed my culinary world forever. The experience was unforgettable, and I hadn’t even yet taken a bite! When my knife pierced the pocket beneath the tender white meat, a flood of rich, amber juice spilled out onto my plate. What transpired after I took a bite was heaven for all five of my senses.
The Algonquin Hotel’s Round Table Restaurant near Times Square in NYC.
Some would say yes.
For New York, it is an affordable place to dine in style.
Ok, I will be honest, the stuffed chicken breast they had on the menu that day was exquisite, but so was everything else, like their chilled cucumber lemon soup, which was the chef’s soup du jour that particular day. (Oooooh, thinking back on this makes me was to try and recreate that soup as well, but for now, we are talking about the chicken.)
The baked chicken breast that day was so fabulous that every time I have stuffed chicken beasts now, I think back to the Algonquin experience, so the bar is set pretty high.
This stuffed chicken recipe doesn’t squirt melted butter and herb flavored oil at you the way the one I had in New York did, but it is just as tasty.
If you have never carved out a neat pocket in a chicken breast before, I want to assure you that it isn’t as hard as it looks. For a detailed description on how to do it, keep scrolling until you get to the recipe instructions. (I am going to make a video of how I do this at some point, but for now, the written word will have to do…. a tribute to the origin of The Round Table, perhaps?)
I am learning that you can stuff chicken breasts with just about anything. Chicken is so accommodating that way. Because I live in the sticks now, I don’t have access to fancy ingredients unless I splurge and order them online, so I try to come up with gourmet cooking recipes without all the fuss.
Like Jalapeño Butter Stuffed Chicken Breasts.
The cilantro-jalapeño compound butter is a recipe I got from issue #14 of The Magnolia Journal. It’s super easy to make; just whip together 1/2 cup softened butter with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper (seeds removed), and 1 teaspoon lime zest. Roll into a log, wrap with waxed paper, and chill until firm. You can make this several days ahead.
The breadcrumbs in this recipe will absorb a lot of the juices, but that just makes the flavor of the chicken better. You won’t have as much of the savory liquid on your plate for sopping, but you’ll have a gourmet dinner that is much easier to make. (Oh, don’t worry, they’ll be plenty of juices in the pan to pour over the plate before serving).
This is a make ahead meal for two reasons; the butter can be made ahead, and the chicken breasts need to rest in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours before baking. Slathering them with butter before chilling – uncovered – seals in the moisture while allowing the top layer of meat to dry out just enough to get a nice golden brown ‘skin’ during baking – without the actual skin.
I love to serve these jalapeño butter stuffed chicken breasts with mashed potatoes. Of course, you can have them over rice or with a side salad made with arugula tossed in a lemon vinaigrette.
However you serve it, you can’t help but feel like royalty when you eat it.
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Jalapeño Butter Stuffed Chicken Breasts
- Paring Knife
- 4 ½ tbsp butter divided
- 2 tbsp unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 2 partially frozen chicken breasts skinless and boneless
- 2 tbsp cilantro-jalapeño butter
- Heat ½ T butter in a small skillet until melted and just beginning to brown. Add breadcrumbs and old bay seasoning and stir until well mixed and golden but not browned, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
- Using a paring knife, cut pockets into one of the chicken breasts, starting at the thickest end where the tendon is located. The easiest way to do this is to hold the breast lengthwise with one hand, cupping the chicken into a cylinder shape as you cut with the other hand. You want this slit to extend down through the length of the breast without piercing through the sides or other end. Once the cut is make, remove the knife and gently use your index finger to break apart any connective tissue inside the slit and to widen the inside to form a pocket within the chicken breast. Repeat with the other chicken breast.
- With a small spoon, add ½ tablespoon of the breadcrumbs to the pocket in the chicken, followed by ½ tablespoon butter. Use your finger to gently push the stuffing down to the end of the pocket without pushing it through the meat. Repeat with more breadcrumbs and more butter until the chicken breast is filled but not overstuffed. Pinch the pocket shut and work the stuffing evenly by massaging the meat with your fingers. While holding the pocket shut, fold the far end of the chicken meat under the pocket and place the breast securely in a small pan, folded side down. Repeat with the other chicken breast.
- Take the remaining ½ tablespoon butter and rub it together in your hands. Gently massage the butter into the chicken meat. Make sure to cover all exposed surfaces. Chill the chicken breasts, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight.
- When ready to bake the stuffed chicken breasts, preheat oven to 400°F. Cover the chicken breasts with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes, then rest 5 more minutes before slicing.
- To serve, place sliced chicken breasts on a platter and drizzle with the pan juices (works perfectly!), or use the juices to make a gravy if you prefer.
Magnolia Journal's Cilantro-Jalapeño Compound Butter: Whip together 1/2 cup softened butter with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper (seeds removed), and 1 teaspoon lime zest. Roll into a log, wrap with waxed paper, and chill until firm. You can make this several days ahead.