A few years ago, when I was stumped for ideas for a few well-loved but hard-to-buy-for relatives at Christmas time, I decided to try something different. I made up some fancy menus and offered the recipients their choice of a home cooked meal, prepared and served by me. Both my grandparents, Arthur and Norma Harris, and my uncles, Bob Bollas and Jerry Sweet, chose the garlic lemon double-stuffed chicken.
This recipe is my go-to recipe when I want to make something a little more special than my everyday recipes. I originally discovered it on AllRecipes.com and over time have added a few little tweaks of my own. I chose to make the chicken for this article so I?could bring some to Uncle Jerry, who is recovering from a double knee replacement. Uncle Jerry, your chicken will be waiting for you when you get home!
As with just about everything I cook, I had to make some adjustments so that the recipe is gluten-free. In this case, I simply had to swap out gluten-free bread crumbs for the standard crumbs. In a pinch, you can use gluten-free flour, but these days, gluten-free bread crumbs aren't hard to come by. I?mix all the seasoning in with the bread crumbs and Romano cheese. That way it's mixed in with the breading.
Garlic Lemon Double-Stuffed Chicken, shown here and below, is a delicious way to dress up plain chicken breasts. Use cream cheese and cheddar, as called for in the recipe, or substitute your favorite cheese to make a gooey filling for your chicken. I?like to serve my chicken with rice — drizzling some of the lemon and butter sauce on top.
I've learned through practice that it's easier to butterfly chicken breasts when they're still partially frozen. In this case, after thawing the chicken in the fridge for a few hours, I butterflied them and stuck them in the microwave to finish thawing. Just make sure that you don't cut the chicken completely in half - you want to open and close the chicken like a book.
Though the recipe calls for cream cheese and cheddar, feel free to substitute other cheeses that may suit your fancy. Those seasoned cream cheeses might be nice - I've tried an onion and chive blend that would be quite tasty. I used sharp cheddar (my favorite) and swiss cheese in the chicken pictured here.
When it comes time to stuff your chicken, I find it best to set up an assembly line. I put the cheese on the end, followed by the chicken, milk and crumb mixture. Then I can quickly and easily stuff the chicken, toss it in the breading and get it into the baking dish.
Oil, for greasing pan
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 8 oz. package Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs (can substitute gluten-free crumbs or flour)
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a large, shallow baking dish with oil. Butterfly each breast by slicing in half horizontally through the center, cutting almost but not completely through. Place one slice each of Cheddar and cream cheese in the center of each breast. Close again. Set aside. Pour milk into a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Romano cheese. Carefully dip each breast first in milk, then in breadcrumb mixture, patting lightly to firmly coat. Place breasts side by side in a single layer in pre-oiled baking dish, tucking edges under to seal. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in lemon juice and garlic, and drizzle evenly over chicken. Season breasts with garlic salt and paprika, if using. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.
If you're using pre-sliced cheese like I did, make sure that everything is unpackaged and unwrapped before you start stuffing your chicken. It makes the process go much more smoothly if you don't have to wash your hands between each piece of chicken.
I've found that it generally takes 35 or 40 minutes for the chicken to cook fully rather than the 30 minutes the original recipe recommends.
I like to serve my chicken with rice, drizzling some of the buttery lemon sauce on top, but I?could also see this pairing well with roasted red skinned potatoes and maybe some broccoli.