I will be honest – I am a bad Southerner.
I was born, raised and reside in the South and yet I do not like sweet tea. I like wearing jeans and a t-shirt to sporting events. I’m not a fan of bourbon/whiskey concoctions. And up until about a month ago, I had never tasted pimento cheese.
Now, for my friends up north, out west, and well, anywhere you don’t say “y’all” – pimento cheese is a big Southern thing. Pimento cheese sandwiches (white bread slathered with the stuff – crusts cut off of course, if you’re being proper) are a staple. They serve them every year in Augusta, GA at The Masters. Basically, it’s a mixture of cheese, mayonnaise and pimentos (aka the sweet red bits of pepper found inside of a green olive). And maybe some seasoning. Grocery stores sell tubs of it – but it always just looks like orange nastiness to me. Yes, that is a technical term thankyouverymuch.
I think I never got over the mayonnaise thing – always kind of grossed me out. Like, just cheese and mayonnaise? Ew. (I am like a 6-year-old – I have to disguise mayonnaise in recipes so I can’t tell it’s in there.) But perusing my cooking magazines, there was a special section on pimento cheese and different variations. With bacon or jalapeno or roasted garlic. Hm, maybe I could handle this – I mean, minus the mayonnaise, these were all things I liked! Then I recalled, the husband ate a pimento cheese burger at a bar we went to and loved it. So really, how bad could it be?
Ummm, not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, it’s amazing and I’m already coming up with other ways I can use it. But for starters…it’s delicious all wrapped up and baked inside of a chicken breast.
Oh, and the best part about this bad Southerners’ pimento cheese? It’s healthy!
Pimento Cheese Stuffed Chicken (serves 4)
Lightened Up Pimento Cheese
3/4 cup shredded, fat-free cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. onion, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. pimento, minced
1 Tbsp. fat-free mayonnaise
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 slice turkey bacon
In a medium bowl, add cheese, minced onion, minced pimento, mayonnaise, lemon juice, hot sauce and salt. Cook your turkey bacon and crumble and add to the mixture.
Using a fork and some serious elbow grease, mash everything together. You want to break the cheese into small pieces – until it’s a “spreadable” consistency. I’ve been meaning to try this out in a food processor, but I hate cleaning it – so I’ll stick to the lazy approach!
Refrigerate until ready to use…oh look, you’re ready!
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 (4 – 5oz.) chicken breasts (I get the thin ones)
Seasonings – I use salt, pepper and smoked paprika (regular paprika is fine!)
About 20 toothpicks
Pimento cheese (recipe above)
Preheat your oven to 375.
Place chicken breasts between two pieces of wax paper with at least 2 inches between. Using a meat mallet, take out any aggression you may have on the chicken breasts and pound until about 1/4 inch thick (maybe less – I didn’t measure).
Season both sides of chicken with a little salt, pepper and paprika. Now scoop about 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. of your pimento cheese in the middle of each breast, leaving some space on the sides.
This is where I must apologize that it stops looking “pretty”…it is a skill I need to master, but right now, you’ll just have to trust me that it tastes better than it looks!
Fold the tips of the chicken to the center and secure with a toothpick. Now fold up the sides, creating a sealed pocket with the chicken. I use about 4 toothpicks per breast…sometimes 6 for the really stubborn ones. The cheese is going to heat up and melt, so you don’t want it spilling out everywhere!
(But it’s okay if some does – because burnt cheese is delicious in my humble opinion.)
Transfer chicken to a lightly greased baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned. I know you want to dive right in – but remember to take the toothpicks out before you do.
Now wash it down with some sweet tea if you’re into that kind of thing. I chose wine.
I will keep you posted on what other delicacies I pimentocheesify – my first experiment was a stuffed turkey burger AND cheese fries…
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
(Dang, if only I liked sweet tea…)