So, a short blast of summer sun and I already want meals that reflects it; light, tasty, mostly Mediterranean -inspired food. An invitation extended to family for ‘Sunday Dinner’ becomes problematic when you don’t want the full ordeal of a Roast – so – what to do?
Cheese-stuffed Chicken wrapped in Bacon is a bit of a simple crowd-pleaser, especially if you use really good ingredients. I’ve made this a thousand times before and it’s a perennial favourite. If you make the sauce in advance (which I would always recommend you do) then it’s really just a case of keeping an eye on the oven; while you have a beer, of course. So, to start, make the tomato sauce: One large bottle of Passata goes into a saucepan with a glug of Olive Oil, Black Pepper, three cloves of Garlic (chopped), a pinch of Sugar, Basil and Oregano. Stir well, and simmer gently for only five minutes. You can turn off the heat and leave it to stand, covered.
To make the filling, empty one tub of Ricotta Cheese into a bowl, and add to that a little grated Cheddar. You could also use Parmigiano or Pecorino; the idea is simply to spike the Ricotta with something a little more punchy – as it can be quite bland in itself. Season with Black Pepper and a little Salt. Place in the fridge to cool back down and stiffen slightly for another 20 minutes.
Take Chicken Breasts, and slice a pocket in the largest part, being careful not to slice through the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the filling, and then wrap in bacon. The bacon’s got to be good; I used C&K’s excellent Beer and Black Treacle Bacon (which they kindly sent me after I drooled over it on Twitter) but otherwise I would use any smoked bacon – the deeper the smoke, the better.
When I wrap the bacon around the chicken I tend to fix it with toothpicks. Your chicken will have cheese bursting out of one side, and if you can ‘seal’ that side with bacon, you’re onto a winner.
All wrapped up? Cool, turn your oven on to 175c. Whilst that’s warming up, you need to seal the wrapped chicken in a pan, turning over on all sides and watching to make sure the cheese doesn’t leak out. Again, I find doing this helps the cooking process along and helps keep the cheese inside the chicken once it goes into the oven.
Once browned on all sides, transfer the breasts to the hot oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. You may get some liquid escaping from the cheese and chicken; if that happens, drain it off – you don’t want the meat standing in it.
Serve with the sauce and some herbed roast potatoes; use Rosemary and Thyme. Beer-wise, you don’t want anything too hoppy as I feel it makes the tomato sauce taste a little strange; something with a hint of sweetness in the body is what you want. Adnam’s versatile Spindrift (5% abv) is a good choice; light, refreshing and jaunty, perfectly quaffable. In fact, pick up a few and enjoy them in the garden after enjoying your dinner.