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Grilled Chicken Breast with Italian Cheeses

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Sometimes you want something a little different on the grill — easy,  not too expensive, and quick too. This recipe for grilled stuffed chicken breasts is a simple change of pace using a prepared blend of Italian cheeses (parmesan, mozzarella, asiago, romano, provolone, and fontina), a  jar of artichokes,  and basil. It’s just a few more steps than a standard chicken breast but it’s a real treat of flavors that keep the breast moist and juicy.

I tried this for the first time this weekend for a few friends and we all thought it was delicious. Now that I know how easy it is, I am thinking of different kinds of possible stuffings, say cheddar cheese with mushrooms and spinach. Be creative and use what’s in season or on hand, or simply follow the recipe below.

Ingredients

  • Chicken Breasts – 4-5 large, boneless, skinless
  • Italian Marinade – make your own [1]or use a prepared Italian marinade/dressing – marinading is optional but highly recommended.
  • Olive Oil – 2 Tblsp.
  • Thyme – 1 tsp. dried or fresh
  • Red Pepper Flakes – 1/4 tsp.
  • Garlic – 2-3 cloves, minced
  • Artichoke Hearts – 1 small jar (6 or 7 oz.), rinsed and drained
  • Basil – 2 Tblsp. fresh, chopped, if you have it, or dried flakes
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp.
  • Pepper – a few grinds
  • Shredded Cheese – 1 cup – I used a prepared blend of parmesan, asiago, romano, mozzarella, fontina, and provolone. Simply parmesan would work well too, or any combination you prefer.
  • Toothpicks – 8-10

Directions

  1. Trim the chicken (if there is that extra small strip attached to it) and create a pocket for the stuffing: use a sharp paring knife and cut along one edge only, as deep as you can, about 2-3 inches, depending on how big the piece of meat is. Think pita pocket.
  2. Marinate the chicken for 2-24 hrs. Marinating is really not required, but I highly recommend it for additional flavoring of the chicken.
  3. In a medium saucepan under medium heat, pour olive oil, and add thyme and pepper flakes. Cook for a minute or two, until the thyme fragrance, hits your nose strongly.
  4. Add the garlic, basil, artichoke hearts, salt, and pepper and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the cheese and blend well. Cook for another minute or two, until the cheese, is partially melted and the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  6. Remove from heat and cool.
  7. Spoon the stuffing into the breast pockets (about 3-4 Tblsp.; the exact amount depends on how many breasts you have),
  8. Close the pocket and secure with 2 toothpicks threaded once at either end of the pocket opening. It’s OK if some of the stuffing comes out but the pockets should be big enough to hold the stuffing in. Use less stuffing if it is too hard to close completely.
  9. Place on the grill over medium-high heat.
  10. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on the first side. When the top of the breast (facing you) is turning white, flip it over. Meat should be a nice medium brown on both sides, with juice running clear.
  11. Remove and let cool for a few minutes.
  12. Serve it.

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