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I have made stuffed chicken breasts over the years, and have fallen victim to the pitfalls time and again.  I decided to challenge myself recently to come up with a recipe and process to make super delicious stuffed chicken breasts with minimal pain and suffering.

What are the pitfalls?  First, the delicious stuffing can sometimes ooze out while cooking leading to a very un-stuffed dish.  Second, the outside can become overdone before the internal temperature of the stuffing indicates that it is cooked through.  And finally, stuffed meats in general can be hard to assemble which leads to frustration for the home chef.

I made the stuffing for this recipe from goat cheese, cooked and crumbled pancetta, flat leaf parsley, garlic and roasted red peppers.  Because the pancetta was very salty, I did not add any additional salt to the stuffing.  To prevent the stuffing from leaking during cooking, I did two things.  First, I butterflied the chicken breasts, and then pounded them very thin.  This created a pocket big enough for the stuffing.  Second, when I folded the chicken, I used several toothpicks to seal the edges.  This made a really big difference from previous attempts.

To ensure even cooking, I egged and breaded the stuffed chicken and then let them rest for a while – about 10 minutes, before pan searing until lightly browned.  The resting time helped the coating adhere and therefore did not fall off when cooking.  I then transferred the partially cooked chicken to a tray and finished in the oven.  The result was perfectly cooked chicken (I took them out of the oven at 160) with all of the stuffing inside!

Bread crumb coated chicken resting before cooking

There are infinite ingredient options for the stuffing but I recommend a balanced set of flavors and textures.  This recipe had creamy (goat cheese), spicy (raw garlic), salty, crunchy & rich (pancetta) and colorful & flavorful (green parsley & red peppers).  Other ideas could include; capers, blue cheese, chorizo and any fresh herb.

This dish ended up being quite rich and could pair well with a variety of strong wines, from a Chardonnay to a Cabernet Sauvignon.  I chose one of my favorite wines these days, a Malbec – Merlot blend from the Clos de Los Siete winery in Argentina.  At $20 a bottle, this is a fantastic wine for the price.  It does need time to open up though so don’t rush things with this wine.

More detail on the wine: “The 2008 Clos de Los Siete is a blend of 56% Malbec, 21% Merlot, with the balance Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 11 months in one-third new French, one-third second use barrels, and one-third in vat”.

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Pancetta

2-4 servings (varies based on portion size)

2 chicken breasts, tenderloin removed, butterflied

2 ounces goat cheese, softened

3 thick slices pancetta, diced and cooked.  Approx. 1/3 cup.  You can substitute bacon

2 T minced parley

1 clove garlic, pressed or minced

1/2 roasted red pepper (I used Trader Joe’s jarred peppers)

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup bread crumbs for coating.  You can use panko, corn meal or in my case, Glutino gluten free bread crumbs

1. Mix stuffing ingredients and spread half on each chicken breast.  Fold over and seal with toothpicks (I used 3 per breast)

2. Dip in beaten egg and then bread crumbs.  Let rest for 10 minutes

3. Pan sear in olive oil until lightly browned on both sides.

4. Cook an additional 15 minutes in 350 degree oven.  Remove when internal temp is 160.  You could use the same pan but I elevated mine on a cooking sheet to make sure top and bottom were crispy.