Cheesy Chicken with Crunchies
3-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, depending on size (I had huge ones, so three was plenty for me)
1 stick of butter, melted
2 cups shredded (not pre-shredded!) cheddar cheese
1 bag seasoned croutons (or if you make your own, use them! And teach me how...)
1/2 tsp black pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Trim your chicken breast and cut into fillet/tender-sized chunks. This is not an exact science. A large breast usually makes three, a small will make two.
Crunch up your croutons. You can stick them in a blender or a food processor, I usually put them in a bag and pound the bejeebers out of them with my marble rolling pin. (Wedding present from my mom. She had one, and I was determined no wimpy wooden one was good enough for me!!) This recipe started with crackers, but they got soggy, chips were too greasy, breadcrumbs had no flavor, croutons were just right. We usually pick a flavor like "Garlic and Herbs", whatever seasonings your croutons have, that will be the seasonings for the dish. Consider carefully, my friends! Crunch them a little finer than I did, some larger chunks are fine but I was a bit impatient.
Toss in the cheese and pepper and mix well. I just use my hands, trust me, they're gonna get dirty anyway!
And now you're ready! Take a piece of chicken, dip it in butter, (Mmmm...) then in the cheese-crouton mixture. Squish as much on that chicken as you can, and kinda hold some on it when you place it in your 9x13 baking dish.
It should look basically like this: some crouton-stuff on the top, and underneath, and squished against the sides.
Don't worry if it's not perfect. Repeat with all your other chicken pieces, sprinkle any extra crouton-stuff over the top. Drizzle remaining butter over the top too. (there won't be much left over)
Ta-dah! Invisible chicken! Just kidding. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10-15 minutes more. Done! (Note: you can leave your breasts whole, and bake for 1 hour, but we like having a higher crunchies-to-chicken ratio. You can also easily halve the recipe for two, this makes enough for our family to eat and half leftovers)
You would THINK that all that butter and cheesy-ness would make it melty and gooey, right? Nope. The cheese and butter and croutons create these wonderful little nuggets we call "crunchies". They are the bits of cheesy croutons that get all toasted up on the bottom of the dish and in between the chicken. They are so good, we have to divide them evenly; heaven forbid someone gets shafted on the crunchies!! Stephen would like to find a way to just make a pan full of crunchies... and skip the chicken...
Surprisingly, I really don't know how, the chicken gets moist and seasoned and flavorful, just by having this stuff sitting on top! It probably wouldn't be hard to make chicken-less crunchies, but we are just NOT going to go there. That's dangerous territory.
This goes wonderfully with rice and mashed potatoes, and we always have another veggie, because we have to have SOMETHING healthy!