Alice Springs Chicken

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from some friends of ours who said they were coming to visit us from out of town that evening. We could have chosen to eat out at a local restaurant, but it is difficult to be attentive and communicate well in a public setting. I thought to myself, what could I prepare quickly that would feed about 8-10 people and not compromise on taste?

What came to my mind is a dish that is popular in a well-known steakhouse, “Alice Springs Chicken.” There are many copycat recipes circulating on the internet, but after comparing a few, I decided to just create my own to match what we liked.

The results were amazing! Everyone loved it, and you can’t go wrong when bacon and cheese are involved in a recipe.

Here are a few tips to help you get the maximum taste from this dish:

• Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and ask your local grocery store’s butcher to slice the chicken in half, horizontally, so that it will cook faster. Some grocery stores sell packaged thin-sliced chicken breasts.

• Secondly, use freshly grated cheese from the block. It provides a far superior taste than bagged cheese.

• Thirdly, use thick-sliced bacon.

• Lastly, make your own honey-mustard sauce. Although there are some great-tasting name-brand honey mustard sauces available, you can control how much of each flavor to add when making your own sauce.

This dish starts off by browning the chicken on the stove, and finishes in the oven. Serve it with a side of mashed potatoes, green beans and bread, and you will have a magnificent meal to serve. I also served mine with a side salad, just because I could eat a salad with every meal, and it makes me feel like I am eating a “healthier” meal (ha!).

Speaking of “healthy,” we made room for this new cake recipe that I wanted to try, and it will be added to my “keeper” list. I am always trying new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, because you might just find a “keeper” recipe that you can serve to your family on a regular basis.

The cake is called Cookies and Cream Sheet Cake, and it can be made in a 13x9-inch sheet pan, unlike a round, layered, more time-consuming cake. This cake would be good to make for a potluck event at church or to take to a party. It is very quick and easy to make, and starts with a basic boxed cake mix with a homemade icing.

ALICE SPRINGS CHICKEN

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally

8 bacon slices, fully cooked, cut in half

2 cups sliced fresh button mushrooms

Salt

Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Chopped fresh parsley

For the sauce:

½ cup honey

½ cup Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

Make the sauce first by whisking the honey, Dijon, mayonnaise and onion flakes in a small bowl until smooth. You can adjust the tanginess of this sauce by adjusting the honey and mustard to taste. Reserve ½ cup of the sauce for dipping and set aside.

Put the rest of the sauce, along with the chicken, in a resealable gallon-size plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a skillet, cook the bacon until done, and set aside, reserving the bacon grease. In the same skillet, pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease and sauté the mushrooms until done, then set aside. You can add a little salt to the mushrooms to help draw out the moisture.

Take the chicken out of the bag, discard the marinade, and season with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, to taste.

Using the same skillet, add the butter and brown the chicken for approximately 3-5 minutes on each side. At this point, the chicken will not be fully cooked; you will finish it off in the oven.

Lay the chicken in the prepared baking pan and layer each piece with mushrooms, 2 slices of bacon, then the shredded cheese. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. Top with the fresh parsley and serve with the remaining sauce.

COOKIES AND CREAM SHEET CAKE

1 (14.3 ounce) package Oreo cookies

1 (15.25 ounce) box white cake mix

1 cup milk

⅓ cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

For the frosting:

¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until crushed, not pulverized. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, milk, oil and eggs. Use a mixer and mix well. Measure out 2 cups of the crushed cookies and stir them into the batter. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Set aside and cool completely.

To make the frosting, use a mixer to beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. Gradually add the whipping cream until the frosting is near spreading consistency. Stir in the remaining cookie crumbs. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.

— Adapted from Southernbite.com

Greg Morgan lives in Oxford. His food column appears the first Wednesday of each month. Contact him at gmorgan@annistonstar.com.

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