One of the most ideal ways to take boring boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a very fun direction, here they get filled with cream cheese and cheddar cheese for richness, fresh jalapeño for kick, and cilantro for brightness. Serve with rice, a stack of warm tortillas, or crusty bread to sop up the delicious pan juices. A pot of black or pinto beans would be nice, too, as would thick slices of avocado and tomatoes seasoned with lime and salt. Iceberg wedges with Jalapeño Vinaigrette and chopped cilantro, pictured here, are also a great accompaniment.
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Recipe: Jalapeño Popper-Stuffed Chicken
- Four 6-ounce [170 g each] boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1⁄4 cup [60 g] cream cheese
- 1⁄2 cup [60 g] coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 fresh jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (a little stem is fine)
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1⁄2 teaspoon pimentón (smoked spanish paprika)
- 1⁄2 cup [120 ml] water
Preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C].
Place one of the chicken breasts in a large resealable plastic bag and use a meat pounder, rubber mallet, or the bottom of a small-but-heavy pot to pound the chicken so it's 1⁄4 inch [1⁄2 cm] thick. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken breasts.
Place the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, jalapeño, cilantro, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Evenly divide the mixture among the pounded chicken breasts and use your fingertips or a rubber spatula to spread it to cover, as if you were buttering toast. Starting with one of the narrower ends of each chicken breast, roll each one up as if it were a miniature yoga mat. Secure each chicken breast with a toothpick or two. Place each chicken breast in a baking dish (or an ovenproof skillet), toothpicks down (seam sides down).
Place another 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl with the olive oil, cumin, and pimentón and stir well to combine. Evenly divide the mixture among the chicken breasts and use your fingertips or a pastry brush to coat the exterior of each chicken breast. Pour the water around (not on top of) the chicken breasts.
Roast the chicken breasts until they're nicely browned, firm to the touch, and register at least 165°F [74°C] on a digital thermometer, about 30 minutes. Let the chicken breasts rest for at least 10 minutes before removing the toothpicks. Slice the chicken breasts and serve hot with any extra juices from the baking dish poured on top.
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