I’ve always been a little intimidated by cooking raw chicken (or other poultry) in the oven. When it’s on the stove you can watch it closely, poke holes to see if it’s still pink inside, and make sure you don’t dry it out by over-cooking. In the oven, though, it’s just sort of a crap shoot. I learned that the hard way the first time I tried to make a Thanksgiving turkey. I followed the directions and did some complex multiplication to figure out how long to cook the bird, timed it, basted, took it out, posed for pictures with it, thought it looked perfect. When Andy started to cut into it though, we quickly realized it was nowhere near done, and not even close to edible.
Needless to say, I invested in a meat thermometer the next year, and I am so glad I did! Not only did that turkey turn out perfectly, but I’ve found plenty of uses for it since.
Which brings me to my latest recipe, one made possible by the support of my trusty meat thermometer.
I’m so used to buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I had to spend a little extra time looking for bone-in, skin-on breasts. It was worth it though–I’d forgotten how much I love the taste of chicken skin! These really were the easiest thing to make, and very pretty on the dinner table. I whipped up the stuffing in a matter of minutes, assembled the breasts, then spent the next hour enjoying a gorgeous summery day on the back porch.
This mixture marks the inauguration of my back-porch herb garden. I felt a little guilty snipping leaves from the basil plant, but my goodness has the oregano grown! I think it’s about tripled in size in the last 2 weeks:
Anyway, to come full circle, I baked the chicken for about 50 minutes and thought it was done. Using my trusty meat thermometer revealed that it was only about 150 degrees inside. I gave it another 15 minutes and got it up to 165. My cookbook said to cook breast meat to 170 degrees, but it looked totally white and I didn’t want to dry it out. As we cut into the chicken I realized that was a good choice, because it was perfectly juicy AND cooked through. The USDA says 165 degrees is the minimum to make your chicken safe. So, I think I need to continue experimenting with chicken in the oven.
Cheese-stuffed chicken breasts
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
- 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- 1/4 c ricotta cheese
- 1/4 c shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 c shredded Parmesan
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1-2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
- 2 tbsp green onions, chopped
- 2 tsp lemon pepper
- 2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine cheeses, lemon juice, basil, oregano, green onions, and half of each of the peppers and salt in a bowl. Mix well.
- Place chicken, bone side down, in a glass baking dish. On the rib side, make a 2-3 inch slit in the skin and use your fingers to separate the skin from the chicken to create a pocket for the stuffing (skin should stay attached at the edges of the breast.
- Fill each pocket with cheese stuffing and brush the tops of each breast with melted butter. Sprinkle with the remaining peppers and salt.
- Bake in 375 degree oven for about 60-65 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers about 165-170 degrees.
I recommend serving with a topping of tomato sauce–I used Trader Joe’s vodka tomato. You can skip the green onions. I added them because I happened to have some leftovers on hand. The chicken breasts also made great leftovers.