Sunday, February 17, 2013

Party Food Becomes Dinner

I love party food.  Some of the tastiest bites are found among friends, everyone bringing something new to the party, everyone laughing, eating, bonding.  My family loves these decadent appetizers too.  Sometimes we have "Party Food Night" for dinner.  And one of the most popular foods you'll find at most parties is the Jalapeno Popper.  It's a perfect blend of spicy, cheesy, bacony goodness.

So I decided I would focus on the Popper and turn it into something bigger...dinner.  Now, obviously you can't find a really giant jalapeno big enough to eat as a meal (not even in the Guinness World Records.  I looked it up).  So instead I stuffed it into something we eat a lot.  Chicken.

One of the things my husband doesn't like about bacon is the tendency for it to get soft when you cook it in something, like when I make homemade macaroni and cheese and put bacon in it.  It doesn't remain crispy.  So my way to overcome that soggy bacon effect was to wrap it around the chicken.  Perfect crispy texture.  And the cream cheese, jalapenos, pepper Jack cheese and parmesan are inside the chicken.

So there you have it, Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Popper Chicken.  Serve it with my Cheesy Twice-Baked Potatoes.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 slices bacon
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 3 T jalapeno slices, chopped
1 C pepper Jack or cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  For the filling, mix cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic, jalapenos and shredded cheese in a food processor.

Next, carefully butterfly the chicken by slicing through the thickest part of the chicken lengthwise. Continue pulling the top back until you've opened it kind of like a book, being careful not to go all the way through to the bottom.  (There are YouTube videos you can watch to see the technique.)

Divide your filling into four.  With your hands, mash the filling into an oval ball shape.  Place the filling in the chicken.  Fold the other side of the chicken down over the filling.  Secure with toothpicks, making sure no filling is showing through.  **Tip...use three toothpicks per chicken breast.  That way you'll be able to tell the people eating the chicken how many toothpicks to look for and pull out.

Wrap one slice of bacon around each chicken breast.  Put them in a glass casserole dish and cook about 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is done and bacon is crisp.  Don't worry if some of the filling cooks out.  It creates a great sauce to spoon over the chicken.

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