Saturday Afternoon Chicken and Green Chile

I used to make these delicious southwestern style chicken roll thingies - pounded chicken breast filled with cornbread stuffing (Stovetop brand, probably), cheese and green chiles, rolled and baked in a casserole with chicken stock, more chiles and cheese. They were pretty darn tasty, even though I don't usually care for cornbread.

Now that I'm trying to lighten up a little - or a lot - I decided to re-engineer this comfort classic to keep all the flavor (and more)  but ditch some of the fat and carbs. Basically I replaced the stuffing with sauteed vegetables, cut back on the cheese and made a couple of other deletions and substitutions. Since a couple of friends have asked for the recipe I'm sharing it here.

FIRST let me say - you can make any substitutes / additions / omissions you want, just don't over-salt the filling and don't overcook the chicken and this thing is going to taste great. I prefer organic, locally grown produce, and I hope you do too. If you're in the Jacksonville, Florida metro area, a good source is The Veggie Bin. Anything I need that isn't in my bin on Thursday, I can usually pick up at the Beaches Green Market on Saturday afternoon.

Chicken With Green Chile 

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (or use thighs for even more flavor)
2. tsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)*
2 small zucchini
1 small sweet pepper - seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper - seeded and chopped
1 small sweet onion - peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
4-5 shiitake mushrooms (stems discarded) chopped
1 small can chopped green chilis - hot, med, mild, your call.
1/2C homemade chicken stock (or organic low sodium canned)
2 cups reduced fat cheese, shredded (I used Mexican blend pre-shredded in the bag)
1 large jar salsa verde (look for one with noticeable tomatillo, onions and chiles - it should be somewhat watery, not artificially thickened.) If you have time to make your own that's preferable - here's a great recipe.
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c freshly toasted whole grain breadcrumbs (optional)
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro
lime wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the chicken breasts by butterflying and pounding them out flat. Cut each breast half into two somewhat even pieces. Each piece should be large enough to hold 2-3T of stuffing and be folded over (like a taco). Season with salt and pepper, then saute flat chicken breast portions in heated EVOO until just lightly browned. (don't worry if they aren't cooked through - they will finish in the oven.) *If you want to avoid even more fat you can skip the saute altogether - just prep, season and fill the raw chicken.) Set the chicken aside while you prepare the filling.

Deglaze the pan with chicken stock. Add the fresh chopped vegetables, garlic and mushrooms, and stir on low-med heat until slightly softened. (Again, this will cook more in the oven, so try not to reduce it to mush here.) Remove from heat. Once it has cooled somewhat, mix in one cup of shredded cheese. The seasoning may be a little bland at this point, but you're going to add cheese and salsa, so adjust salt and pepper to taste, but be careful not to over-season it.

Pour 3/4 of the salsa into the bottom of a rectangular glass baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken pieces without crowding them. Working in the baking dish, lay out one piece of chicken, top it with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable mix, then fold it over (like a taco). Repeat with all the chicken pieces - keeping them a few inches apart in the dish if possible. Dont worry if the chicken won't stay folded. It's all good. If you have extra veggie mix you can stuff it in the folded chicken pieces or scatter it in the dish. Top chicken  pieces with a drizzle of the remaining salsa and a mound of the remaining cheese. Scatter breadcrumbs lightly over all and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes - or until chicken is cooked through and toppings are toasty golden brown. Let it cool for 10 minutes before removing from the dish. Serve one or two pieces of chicken and the surrounding sauce (which is now full of cheesy veggie goodness, charlie) and a wedge of lime. For a more elegant (and easier to eat) presentation you can slice the chicken on the diagonal and serve the slices over the sauce. The chicken should be fork tender and still juicy.

Whew. It took longer to write this than it did to assemble the dish, I promise you!