- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

An assistant who helps me test recipes came to work recently with a request. She had volunteered to take care of her 8-year-old niece and 13-year-old nephew while her sister and husband took a weekend vacation.

The children, my pal explained, loved to cook but were picky eaters, so she was searching for foods they would enjoy helping her prepare and sample Friday and Saturday nights.

I found a recipe in my files for boneless chicken breasts stuffed with chilies, bacon and cheese. I developed this dish more than 15 years ago but had recently revised it, changing a few of the ingredients and simplifying the directions.

The preparation included assembling a filling of crumbled bacon, sauteed onions and garlic, chopped serrano chilies and grated pepper Jack cheese and tucking it into pockets of boneless chicken breasts. The stuffed breasts were then quickly cooked on the grill and sprinkled with lime juice.

We agreed that this dish was not too complicated for young cooks with a little adult guidance and that the robust but not overly spicy flavors would appeal to young palates. In addition, the children would learn about cooking and entertaining.

Chicken breasts stuffed with chilies, bacon and cheese

6 6- to 7-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat

1 or 2 limes

6 slices (5 to 6 ounces) bacon

3/4 cup chopped yellow onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 large serrano chili

1 cup grated pepper Jack cheese

1½ tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil for oiling grill rack

Soak 6 short, wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before using. Pat dry. (Metal skewers can also be used but do not need soaking.)

Remove the small strip of meat called the fillet from the underside of each breast and save for another use. Using a sharp paring knife held parallel (horizontal) to the work surface, make a pocket about 4 to 5 inches wide and 2 inches deep in each breast. Set breasts aside while you prepare the filling.

Zest limes to yield 1½ teaspoons, then juice limes. Set zest and juice aside.

Fry bacon in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels, then crumble bacon. Pour off all but 1½ tablespoons of drippings in skillet and return skillet to medium heat. When hot, add onion and garlic; saute until onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped serrano chili.

Place mixture in a medium bowl and cool completely, then stir in grated cheese, parsley, ⅛ teaspoon salt, cayenne, crumbled bacon and lime zest. Mix well.Divide cheese mixture into 6 equal portions, and stuff each breast with filling. Secure with skewers. (Breasts can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

When ready to cook chicken, oil a grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature). Grill until chicken springs back when touched with your fingers and juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Internal temperature should be 170 degrees. (Chicken can also be cooked on a stove-top grill pan.)

Remove skewers and arrange chicken breasts on a platter. Pour some reserved lime juice over each breast and season with salt, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES INTERNATIONAL

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