Searching for a foolproof way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you can actually get excited about? You and me both, as I typically find chicken breasts to be lacking in flavor and difficult to cook through without drying out. That’s why I came up with this bacon-wrapped chicken recipe that takes its cues from Devils on Horseback, the classic party appetizer of roasted dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed in blue cheese. It’s a preparation that checks all of the boxes for me: always tender, well-seasoned meat; lots of big, bold, complementary flavors, and simple, streamlined steps that are easy to execute on a busy night.
Here’s why it works so well: The bacon provides a fatty blanket that keeps the lean breasts flavorful and moist, and the spice rub plus maple-chile glaze amp up the flavors more still. The method of searing the bacon-wrapped breasts first on the stovetop, then finishing in the oven, ensures crispy bacon and juicy chicken with minimal hands-on time. Plump dates roast alongside the chicken, soaking up the savory, rendered fat. Even better, when the chicken is done roasting, you’re left with a ready-made pan sauce (flavored with bacon drippings, spices, and the sweet-spicy glaze) that’s easily transformed into a crazy-good vinaigrette that practically cries out for peppery greens, sharp blue cheese, and those sticky-savory-sweet roasted dates.
I think of this dinner as really good chicken plus a bonus salad, all by way of one skillet!
A few notes and tips: I love this simple spice rub of paprika and coriander, but let your spice cabinet lead the way—for example, 3 teaspoons of chili powder plus ¾ teaspoon of brown sugar is a nice alternative. Change up the salad components, too—virtually any type of greens will work nicely, as will other types of cheese. Or feel free to skip the leafy greens altogether: the vinaigrette and tender dates are great spooned over couscous, rice, or pasta. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
It's the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we're hungry. Like, "can't-think-straight" hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner's Ready, her twice-a-month column on weeknight wonders, Emily shares simple, flavor-packed recipes that'll have a good meal on the table in no time. —The Editors
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 35 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
2 1/2 teaspoons
smoked or sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons
skinless, boneless chicken breasts (1¾ to 2 pounds total; choose breasts that are roughly the same size and weight)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
slices regular or thin-cut bacon (not thick-cut)
(or more) chile sauce (such as harissa, sambal oelek, or gochujang)
Medjool dates, pitted and halved
(or more) sherry or red wine vinegar
4 to 5 cups
arugula, spinach, or other tender greens
crumbled blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese (about 1½ ounces)
- Arrange an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler; heat the oven to 400°F (or 375°F on a convection oven).
- In a small bowl, mix the paprika and coriander together. Pat chicken dry. Evenly rub the spice mixture on both sides of the chicken breasts, then season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Starting on the bottom of the thickest end of the breast, wrap 1 slice of bacon around the breast, working toward the middle and ending on the bottom. Continue wrapping with another slice of bacon (slightly overlapping the ends of the two slices) until the chicken is completely wrapped and the bacon seams are on the bottom (the bacon will stay intact better this way). Make-ahead tip: refrigerate the bacon-wrapped chicken for up to 8 hours. Remove from the fridge 10 to 15 minutes before using.
- In a 12-inch (or larger) ovenproof skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Arrange the chicken breasts bacon seam side down in the skillet. Cook, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes, until the bacon starts to render its fat and brown on the underside (gently lift the breasts with a spatula to monitor). Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the maple syrup and chile sauce. Taste, and add more chile sauce if desired. Brush the top sides of each breast with the maple-chile sauce. Nestle the dates around the breasts (not on top) so they’ll roast in the pan sauce.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Baste the chicken with the pan sauce and check the internal temperature. Continue to roast until the thermometer registers between 150°F and 155°F, which could take less than 5 minutes or closer to 20 minutes, depending on their thickness. (Tip: Baste the chicken each time you check the temperature.) Remove skillet from the oven and baste again. Transfer the dates to a cutting board.
- Heat the broiler (on medium if you have different settings), then slide the skillet under the broiler and broil for 2 to 4 minutes, until the bacon is well browned and crispy; watch closely!
- Transfer the chicken to the cutting board. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice each breast or leave them whole (your choice).
- Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette in the skillet by whisking the vinegar into the pan sauce. Taste, adding more vinegar and/or salt until you get the perfect balance of salty, sweet, tangy flavors.
- In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with just enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves, then add the dates and cheese and toss again. Divide the salad and chicken among plates, spooning a little extra vinaigrette over the chicken before serving. (Save any leftover vinaigrette; it'll keep well in the fridge for several days.)