Stuffing, no fussing; Chicken: Slipping ingredients under the skin produces rich flavors and aromas without the safety worries.


Roast chicken with savory stuffing is a favorite of nearly everybody but the cook, who has to juggle the roasting time and temperature so that the stuffing is sufficiently cooked but the tender breast meat isn't overdone and dry.

A simpler (and safer) solution is to bake the stuffing separately, in a covered dish, but this method doesn't suffuse the meat with the flavor of the stuffing. Here's an alternative that provides the benefits of stuffed poultry without the disadvantages. It can be used with a whole bird or with turkey or chicken breasts: Insert the stuffing just under the skin rather than in the center of the bird.

Even if there's no time for a traditional bread crumb- or rice-based stuffing, you can achieve similar results with a simplified stuffing -- a single ingredient. A few slices of onion, garlic or mushrooms, or leaves of fresh aromatic herbs (basil, rosemary, sage or thyme) will permeate the chicken with flavor and aroma as it bakes.

Basil-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

2/3 cup dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 whole chicken breasts, boned but with skin intact


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs and basil. Add garlic and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, mixing with fingers to moisten crumbs. Set aside.

Wash chicken breasts and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt. Lay each breast, skin side up, on a cutting board. Loosen the skin from the breasts by gently sliding your fingertips between the skin and the breast meat.

Insert half of stuffing under the skin of each whole breast, centering the stuffing in the middle of the breast. Fold skin and meat under to form a neat dome and wrap with kitchen string. Brush with remaining olive oil.

Place the prepared breasts skin side up in a shallow, greased baking dish. Bake on middle rack of oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 170 degrees and stuffing registers 165 degrees (about 35 minutes).

When chicken is done, cool slightly and remove string. Slice each whole breast into two portions, and serve.

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