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To inspire your table, we asked readers for their best holiday recipes. In response, hundreds of cherished dishes and poignant anecdotes flooded our inboxes. Weeks of testing and tasting, and multiple rounds of voting, ensued until—at long last—we agreed on the best of the best, yielding a handful of winners.
The Texas Co-op Power 2016 Holiday Recipe Contest grand prizewinner (and this month’s cover star) is Stuffed Chicken With Mushroom Pan Jus from Karen Bergman of Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative.
Bergman wins $3,000 for her delicious entrée. Four additional winners—for two sweet and two savory dishes—each get $500.
“This rich and delicious entrée is definitely worthy of a holiday dinner and is a family favorite at the Bergman house. The creamy filling is flavored with luscious red peppers and garlic that roast for an hour and a half to create an incredible flavor. Bonus: The process makes your kitchen smell delicious.”
3 red or orange bell peppers
8 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
8 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence with lavender
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup sliced shallots
8 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
8 ounces grated pepper jack cheese
4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
8 slices thick-cut bacon (or more, depending on size of breasts)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mushroom Pan Jus
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
16 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons thyme
Cracked black pepper and coarse salt to taste
2 cups dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc)
2 cups mushroom or chicken stock
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 tablespoons flour
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with olive oil or unflavored nonstick spray.
2. Stuffing: Core peppers, removing seeds and membranes, then slice each half into quarter strips. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Place peppers in baking dish (insides facing up), sprinkle with garlic, drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and bake 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat, uncover and cool.
3. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, basil, Italian parsley and shallots, and pulse until creamy. Add spinach and pulse until incorporated. The mixture can be slightly chunky. Add the cooled peppers and pulse until combined but still chunky. Transfer the stuffing to a bowl, stir in pepper jack cheese, and refrigerate while preparing the chicken.
4. Chicken: Coat a 10-by-16-inch roasting pan and rack with nonstick spray.
5. Spread equal amounts of stuffing on top of each butterflied breast, then roll into a snug cylinder. Starting on one end of the roll, wrap a slice of bacon around the breast, from one end to the other, and then repeat with a second slice (starting where the first slice ended).
6. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully place chicken in skillet and cook 3–4 minutes on each side, just until the bacon begins to brown. Transfer the chicken, seam side down, to the prepared roasting pan. Leave browned bits and juice from the chicken in the skillet to be used for the pan jus. Bake uncovered 35 minutes. While the chicken cooks, make the pan jus.
7. Mushroom Pan Jus: In the skillet used for the chicken, heat olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt, and sauté until slightly browned. Add white wine and cook, stirring to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, until reduced by half. Add the stock and again cook, stirring, until reduced by half. Add the softened butter and stir until creamy. If the sauce seems thin, you can thicken it by stirring in flour.
8. Serve the chicken breasts covered with a generous portion of the mushroom pan jus. Top with any remaining chopped parsley, if desired.
Elevating the chicken on a roasting rack helps the bacon crisp and brown in the oven, but it’s fine to place the chicken directly on the pan. For the best flavor (and easiest serving), allow the chicken breasts to rest about 10 minutes after cooking. To make the dish less rich, cut the sauce recipe in half and top each chicken breast with only a few spoonfuls. Any leftover cheese stuffing is delicious spread on a toasted baguette—a nice appetizer for the cook.