Rustic Baked Chicken With Cheese and Bacon

www.mypicshares.com

I absolutely love the combination of chicken, melted cheese, and fried bacon. It is succulent and satisfying to the taste buds, and has such a diversity of flavors – the smoky taste of bacon and tanginess of cheese goes wonderfully well with a comfort food like baked chicken. And it’s something most everyone in your house is sure to like – even the pickiest of eaters. The smell alone of this food while cooking is incredibly irresistible.

I can’t stress enough the importance of quality ingredients. We used chicken thighs and legs – which are more economical than larger pieces such as the breast. Many people perceive the breast to be the healthiest piece of the bird since it’s “leaner and lower in fat”.  But breasts are actually the least nutrient-dense part of the chicken. Dark pieces do contain cholesterol, and they are also slightly higher in fat. But that’s actually a good thing. Did you know that since dark meat has more fat and cholesterol, that means it has more nutrients? And if poultry is from healthy birds who aren’t administered antibiotics and are on pasture, it is very healthy to eat. You can feel good about using dark pieces of chicken as they count for more nutrition AND they are cheaper.

So when you’re shopping for poultry, definitely go for the pasture-raised variety from local farms. Unlike feedlot chickens in confinement, these chickens eat a healthier diet, have access to sunshine and are able to forage and eat insects. This makes the quality of their meat higher – more conjugated linoleic acid (cancer preventions), Vitamin A , D, E, and K (fat-soluble vitamins), and Omega 3 fatty acids (lowers the risk of auto-immune problems, heart attack, cancer).

Cheese is such an artisanal food, it seems wrong to buy anything commercial. It’s difficult to find local, raw cheese where we live (Boise, ID). Occasionally I buy some of the few local cheesemaker’s products – but mostly they are pasteurized. For this recipe, I used some raw cheese which I try to keep on hand in my freezer from various merchants I know and trust such as U.S. Wellness Meats from Missouri or Trickling Springs Creamery, whose cheese I tried at the Weston A. Price Wise Traditions Conference in King of Prussia, PA. I also used some Italian Asiago cheese from my health food store cheese counter.

Your bacon should also be from a pasture-raised source for the same reasons – more Vitamins A, D, E, and K, . Healthy saturated fats and proteins contain nutrients necessary for health!

And now for the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • Pasture-raised chicken parts of your choice – we used thighs (4) and legs (5), bones in
  • Mushrooms – I used 4 large shitakes, sliced
  • Diced onions -I used 1/2 of a small onion
  • Minced garlic – 3-5 cloves, depending on how much you love garlic
  • Package of bacon from pasture-raised hogs, sliced in half and cooked (I fried it in a cast iron pan on the stove first)
  • Grated cheese of your choice – I used a mixture of raw cheddar and Asiago, about 1 cup (what can I say, I like cheese)
  • Butter or ghee – you can also add in some olive oil or use it place of the butter, however, butter or ghee imparts an incredible taste to the chicken
  • Sea salt – to taste
  • Pepper – to taste, I used about 1/4 tsp
  • Paprika – to taste, I used about 1/2 tsp

Equipment:

  • Large pan – I used stainless steel
  • 9×12 baking dish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large pan, fry bacon on the stove. Some people prefer the oven method. Leave the bacon just on the side of underdone since you will be putting it in the oven on the chicken when you are finished. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Drain most of the bacon grease from the pan where the bacon was cooked into a storage container (you know you want those bacon drippings for refried beans). Add onions and garlic to the pan on medium-low heat.
  4. While the onions and garlic are sauteeing, add mushrooms. At this point, you can add butter or ghee to your pan to help add more oil for the chicken to cook.
  5. Add chicken pieces, then add salt, pepper, and paprika and brown on both sides, but don’t cook all the way through.  Allow chicken to cook for about 7- 10 minutes on each side, covered on medium low heat. Depending on how big your pan is that you use to brown the chicken, you may have to brown one set of pieces and set them in your baking dish until the next set are browned.
  6. Place the partially cooked chicken in a baking dish, cover pieces with the mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and pour the remaining “sauce” from bacon drippings and butter or ghee and/or olive oil over it.
  7. Drape chicken with bacon pieces.
  8. Cover chicken and bacon with grated cheese. I covered the bacon as much as possible with cheese to make certain it didn’t  burn in the oven while the chicken finished cooking.
  9. Allow chicken to bake 45 minutes to an hour. Check periodically to make sure your chicken/bacon/cheese is not burning on top. If it does start to get too hot, cover with a piece of foil. Your cooking time will depend upon how long your chicken cooks on the stove and other factors like elevation.

I just realized something I neglected to think of for the perfect finishing touch to this meal that would be divinely delicious – a mild mustard/homemade mayo sauce. I’ll be making that next time!

Enjoy your chicken served with a salad topped with olive oil and vinegar or cooked vegetables with plenty of pastured butter.  My family loved this meal – and we had leftovers!  :)

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday Blog hop (hosted this week by GNOWFGLINS).

4 Comments

  • December 23, 2010 - 9:37 AM | Permalink

    Looking good!! I might just dive right into that pan!!!!

  • December 23, 2010 - 10:12 AM | Permalink

    Hi Lydia! I thought the same thing when I was taking the picture – we hadn’t yet eaten it and we were starving, which of course, makes a difference! :)

  • Beth
    November 2, 2011 - 3:42 PM | Permalink

    Just made this for the second time… it is SO satisfying. This last time I used boneless thighs, added more onion and chopped the bacon before precooking it. I browned the thighs by themselves in coconut oil then transferred them to the baking pan and added the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the skillet. When they were about half done I stirred in the chopped bacon and poured it all over the chicken, returned the skillet to stove and deglazed with a bit of white wine and poured it over everything else. We decided on gruyere for the cheese and the final dish was perfect! Thanks again Raine. <3

  • November 2, 2011 - 4:18 PM | Permalink

    Hi Beth – yay, I’m so glad you have enjoyed this recipe! I love it so much, and I need to make it again soon. I think what really makes it special is the bacon and cheese, which are two of my favorite ingredients, and the fact that you can use really any pieces/parts of the chicken you want..it’s very versatile, satisfying, and delicious! Plus, it feeds at least a few people or makes great leftovers for later. :)

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