Chicken can be special occasion dish

A few years ago, when I was stumped for ideas for a few well-loved but hard-to-buy-for relatives at Christmas time, I decided to try something different. I made up some fancy menus and offered the recipients their choice of a home cooked meal, prepared and served by me. Both my grandparents, Arthur and Norma Harris, and my uncles, Bob Bollas and Jerry Sweet, chose the garlic lemon double-stuffed chicken.

This recipe is my go-to recipe when I want to make something a little more special than my everyday recipes. I originally discovered it on and over time have added a few little tweaks of my own. I chose to make the chicken for this article so I?could bring some to Uncle Jerry, who is recovering from a double knee replacement. Uncle Jerry, your chicken will be waiting for you when you get home!

As with just about everything I cook, I had to make some adjustments so that the recipe is gluten-free. In this case, I simply had to swap out gluten-free bread crumbs for the standard crumbs. In a pinch, you can use gluten-free flour, but these days, gluten-free bread crumbs aren’t hard to come by. I?mix all the seasoning in with the bread crumbs and Romano cheese. That way it’s mixed in with the breading.

I’ve learned through practice that it’s easier to butterfly chicken breasts when they’re still partially frozen. In this case, after thawing the chicken in the fridge for a few hours, I butterflied them and stuck them in the microwave to finish thawing. Just make sure that you don’t cut the chicken completely in half – you want to open and close the chicken like a book.

Though the recipe calls for cream cheese and cheddar, feel free to substitute other cheeses that may suit your fancy. Those seasoned cream cheeses might be nice – I’ve tried an onion and chive blend that would be quite tasty. I used sharp cheddar (my favorite) and swiss cheese in the chicken pictured here.

When it comes time to stuff your chicken, I find it best to set up an assembly line. I put the cheese on the end, followed by the chicken, milk and crumb mixture. Then I can quickly and easily stuff the chicken, toss it in the breading and get it into the baking dish.

If you’re using pre-sliced cheese like I did, make sure that everything is unpackaged and unwrapped before you start stuffing your chicken. It makes the process go much more smoothly if you don’t have to wash your hands between each piece of chicken.

I’ve found that it generally takes 35 or 40 minutes for the chicken to cook fully rather than the 30 minutes the original recipe recommends.

I like to serve my chicken with rice, drizzling some of the buttery lemon sauce on top, but I?could also see this pairing well with roasted red skinned potatoes and maybe some broccoli.