Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bacon & Gouda Stuffed Chicken Breast

Before I give you the easiest stuffed chicken recipe you will ever make, I want to talk to you about my dream last night. If you don’t already know this about me, I have a prodigious fear of zombies (Though, surprisingly, I dug Zombieland). It isn’t quite so much a phobia that gives me panic attacks and fainting spells, but I do have vivid nightmares about them. Not only are they extremely terrifying, they are also reoccurring.

It all started my first year in college, around the time school was letting out for the winter holidays. I went and saw my first ever zombie movie at the AMC Tysons Corner 16. It was Resident Evil 3, and it was only the beginning. At first the zombies looked like your typical human being in my dreams. The post-apocalyptic landscape was industrial and familiar, only without cars and them walking down the highway, staring straight ahead with vacant eyes. Whenever I walked near one they seemed to come out of their trance and would tell me to get away or they’d bite me. They knew what they were, and although they looked like any average Joe or Jane I’d meet on the street, I knew what they were also.

After three years, they’ve progressed and evolved into different images. Sometimes they were rotting and bloody, and I would usually have something to defend myself with. Sometimes they looked demonic and beautiful; they were sentient, articulate, and even more horrible to deal with. It’s the conscious, unearthly looking ones that terrify me the most, and they’re the ones that are often the zombie part of the zombie nightmare experience.

(c) Link

For a while I thought they symbolized my need for control of my own life and destiny, or not wanting to become part of the crowd that followed everything I was against. This morning's took on a new feel to it that was different from the others. I was uprooted from my home, because they could easily go in and out of buildings as they pleased. There was a secret government agency involved, where technology was exceedingly developed and they were about as helpful as a griddle skillet for a soup recipe. I spoke with them and I ran from them in this vast hotel with many halls, windows, and rooms. I was alone against the world, and I woke up with my heart thudding so hard against my chest and tears in my eyes. It took a few minutes until the pounding in my ears subsides. At least it was light enough I could see my room clearly with the morning light, and since my stomach was telling me it wanted pancakes with its grumbles I figured it was time to get up anyway.

As I was preparing and eating my first delicious creation of the day, I started thinking about my latest nightmare, and I was struck with such an enlightening realization that there was actually a very logical explanation to these dreams.

I was hungry.

The dreams started when I began exercising and losing weight, and they became more graphic the more restrictive I became with my lifestyle. I think it was my subconscious telling me that it was wrong for me to go to bed hungry, that these awful nightmares were a way of encouraging me to give what my body wants and to nourish its most basic need. Zombies are particular and picky; only the freshest human will do. Although it is very clear I’m eating more throughout the day (and not gaining weight, despite my constant fear of doing so), it still isn’t enough to satisfy my body completely, whether it’s feeling contentedly full at that moment or not.

And I think it does have to do with self-control, if only a little. I think I was (or still am) afraid of giving in to what I wanted and needed, and that my body had more control over me than I believed it should. But really, what is the distinction? The Body isn’t a separate entity from the the Mind and Spirit, and I shouldn’t be treating it like it is. It should be nourished, loved, and respected just as much as the other two without criticism, exceptions, or regulations. The amazing thing about the physical body is that it knows what’s what before anything else that is a part of you. Everything else beyond the five senses can be physically manifested because even your own mind knows that before You do. Fascinatingly confusing stuff, am I right? Hopefully my future dreaming endeavors, whether they are zombie-filled or not, will be brighter, gentler, and kinder from now on.

Until then, here is a recipe anyone can do and do it well. Stuffed chicken breast is such a versatile dish in how it’s prepared, what it’s stuffed with, and how the overall dish will end up looking on a plate. I like to stuff it with various cheeses and greens, and serve it over a bed of rice with another vegetable as a side. But you can stuff it with apples or other fruits also. You can bread it, glaze it, marinade it, and possibly fry it. You can top it with a sauce or crust it with herbs. This is such a great dish for those who want a nutritionally balanced meal without compromising flavor... and their wallet.

Bacon & Gouda Stuffed Chicken Breasts

4 Chicken breasts, butterfly-cut and pounded out
9.5 oz Pork belly pieces (or bacon), thinly sliced
4 oz Smoked Gouda (or 4 deli slices), thinly sliced and halved into crescents
4 Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. Herb de Provence
Olive oil, for greasing the pan

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Place the large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and cook the pork belly until it is crispy with a satisfying crunch.
Remove the pork belly pieces from the pan and allow cooling until they can be safely handled.
Add the cheese and bacon to one side of the butterfly-cut chicken breasts and sandwich the stuffing with the other side.
Lay the chicken breasts next to each other on the pan and evenly garnish with the garlic, remaining bacon pieces, and Herb de Provence.
Back for 45 minutes and serve hot.

Serves 4.

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