Looking at the abundance of apple orchards in Pittsburgh's North Hills, it clearly appears that Johnny Appleseed traversed our hillocks, hummocks and slopes long ago, all the while leaving the fruits of his labors for many future generations. If not literally descended from Mr. Appleseed, the Shenots, Soergels, Kaelins, Reillys (to name just a few) have done an outstanding job of being the next best thing to old Johnny and his sack of seeds. Our North Hills are covered with apple orchards!
There is nothing like a fresh-from-the-farm apple, especially if it's from one of those just-mentioned local farms. Such an apple stands heads and shoulders above the long-stored, sometimes mealy and dry variety that has been shipped across country to a nearby grocery store. Hooray for local apples!!!!
Now that apple season is here...and you know it's ALWAYS grilling season(!)...I thought it was time to combine the two.
Pondering a way to stuff grilled chicken breasts with tart, sweet apples, the other components of the dish naturally fell into place. A melange of diced apple, onion, crisp bacon, shredded Swiss cheese and stoneground mustard was mounded into the center of each butterflied chicken breast, then secured with toothpicks and then onto the grill. A nice slow flame insured both the inside of the chicken AND the stuffing cooked through without singeing!
Then...and only then...the outside was basted with a combo of honey, balsamic vinegar, Kosher salt and stoneground mustard...just enough sweet, sour and tangy to echo and accent the sweet and savory stuffing.
Although I used Granny Smith apples, you can use your very own favorite variety. Later in the season - after the first frost, my absolute all time fave apple is the crunchy sweet and tart Stayman Winesap. Maybe the apple that's dearest to your heart is a Honeycrisp or a Jonagold, maybe an old fashioned McIntosh tickles your fancy...or even the classic Red Delicious or a Fuji or a Gala or....I could go on and on.
If a trip out to the suburbs is on your to-do list for the weekend, be sure to stop by the farm market to load up on all the bounty apple season has to offer. Johnny Appleseed would approve!
Grilled Apple, Bacon & Swiss
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
- 4 slices bacon, crisped & crumbled
- 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon stoneground mustard
- 1/3 cup Granny Smith or similar tart, crisp apple - peeled, cored, diced medium fine - still some chunkiness to them
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - butterflied and opened like a book
- 2 tablespoons stoneground mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat a skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add onion and saute until softened. Add the crisp crumbled bacon, chopped apple and mustard. Remove from heat and add cheese. Mix just to combine. Set aside.
Mix the basting sauce - mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar and salt and set aside.
Open the butterflied chicken breasts and evenly divide the stuffing among the breasts, firmly mounding the stuffing along the inside seam. Fold the breasts over the filling, compacting the filling as you go. Secure the edges with toothpicks to keep all the goodness inside.
Preheat the grill. Grill the breasts over indirect heat until each is thoroughly cooked all the way through, making sure the stuffing is cooked through, as well. Once the breasts are done, baste with sauce on both sides and grill until browned, but don't let them burn.
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