Oh bacon, thee maketh my heart gladder.
Thee maketh my stews heartier and my soups flavourful,
and you impart thy divine fragrance to the chicken or the beef
– or the greens of the field among which I place thee.
Truly, for all the savoury dishes, thy glory shall be great!
So yes. I love bacon. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone (save some vegans and perhaps vegetarians – don’t know many of either kind closely for the obvious reason of them not liking me much) who does not like bacon. And when pressed, I suspect that even those die-hard ethical eaters love the flavour of bacon, if perhaps not the idea.
Actually, where it comes to my favourite animal-based things to eat and use in savoury food to improve its flavour as an ingredient (other than meat, obviously, which is in its own category), I suspect bacon has only cheese to compete with – and in many cases it wins. (But honestly, when it comes to cheese and bacon, why pick just one?!)
The photo above is from a few days ago, when I have discovered that apparently, happy, well-fed chickens raised to Swedish farm standards, grow into (utterly delicious) humongous monsters. For reference, that’s a large restaurant-sized plate. And that’s a cooked chicken breast on it. And yes, they were 250g each raw (without water added). So once I brought them home, I was left face-to-chicken-breast with them and the contemplation of what to do. Mind you, that was before my luggage (and the spices therein) had arrived in Sweden, and so all I had at my disposal were fresh veggies, garlic, salt, oil and a bit of black pepper. But – eureka! – I also had bacon and cheese.
The salad alongside them was planned in advance (and a separate recipe), but for the bacon-wrapped cheese-stuffed chicken, you really do not need that much:
- 2 chicken breasts (to serve 2, obviously)
- 1 large garlic clove (or 2 smaller ones – can’t skimp on the garlic!)
- 1-2 tablespoons butter (I use lightly salted butter here and do not salt the inside of the chicken pocket)
- 2 slices of cheese (I used a good cheddar in this instance, but any you like will do)
- 5 bacon slices (streaky, with a bit of stretch to it – make sure it’s defrosted completely if using after freezing)
- salt and black pepper to taste (I like lots of the latter, and again this is up to you. Can also use chili flakes.)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (optional)
- Preheat oven to 220°C
- Pat dry the chicken breasts and lay on cutting board. Cut a pocket into the thicker side of each one, carefully
- Slice garlic clove(s) thinly and insert half the slices into each chicken breast
- Place half the butter into each pocket over the garlic
- Place a slice of cheese into each pocket as well
- Season the outside of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper
- You can secure the edges of the pocket with a toothpick, or –
- – in lieu of one, you can tie them with bacon:
- Lightly oil the baking dish you plan to use with the vegetable oil (optional – only to make clean up easier)
- Lay 2 strips of bacon in an X shape on a cutting board, and position breast top side down on them
- Pull the edges together and tie them in a knot on the underside of the chicken breast – one after another
- Place breasts into the baking dish knot-side down. You can cover the dish with aluminium foil for the first half of the cooking time, removing it after 30 minutes
- Cut the last bacon strip into 2 and lay the halves over the chicken breasts
- Place dish in oven and turn oven down to 180°C
- Cook for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. You can switch the grill element (broiler) on for a little while at the end to brown the bacon if necessary.
- Take out and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- Cheese may leak out of the chicken some – I just spoon it and some of the butter over the chicken when it’s plated.
Serve with your side or salad of choice and rejoyce, for the Holy Bacon is great and wonderful and bringeth much joy to the chicken, and makes it juicy and flavourful and not at all dried out or stringy!