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Joni Woolf: Summer Squash and Swiss Chicken Breasts

One might wonder on looking at the title why these two items are contained in the same column. Well, for one thing, they make two interesting items on a dinner menu, where one might add something green, and call it a meal. In this case, I’m writing about it because I am cooking one of these tonight (and adding Carter’s Fried Chicken!). My son is visiting from Savannah, and I wanted to have a kind of “meat and three” dinner, so in order to give full attention to the three vegetables, I decided to order the chicken. The recipe below for Swiss Chicken Breasts would have been a perfect complement to the meal, but when I considered all the other cooking I would be doing, I opted for Carter’s. How can you go wrong with that?
The recipe for the squash casserole was designed for those on gluten-free diets, but that is not why I am cooking it. Fortunately, none of us who will be dining tonight have a gluten problem. I’m preparing it because it may be the best squash casserole dish I have found — utterly delicious, gluten or no gluten. I have prepared it before and recommend it without qualification.
I will say the same for Terry Holland’s Swiss Chicken Breast Recipe that follows. He called to tell me he had added tomatoes, and when and where to include them, so I will add that to the recipe, which can only enhance the flavors that are already there. This is another one of those chicken recipes that can be prepared rather quickly, tucked into the oven, and in less than an hour, a main dish is ready to be served — and the tomatoes do upgrade it a notch. It’s fun to play with recipes, making changes that heighten the flavor or improve the appearance of the dish. To this chicken, one might add a rice dish and a salad, and perhaps some good French bread and a bottle of wine, and there you have it — a perfect meal. My meal tonight will include the squash casserole, creamer peas and cream-style corn from the summer markets, cornbread that I make (not from a mix) and George Hooks’ peach pie, featured earlier in this column.

Gluten Free Summer Squash Casserole
½ pound bacon (cooked and chopped)
1 chopped onion
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 diced tomatoes
3 pounds sliced summer squash
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (reserve one cup for topping)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (depending on the bacon, salt may vary)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Fry bacon and chop when cooled. Fry onion and garlic in bacon drippings. Add squash and tomatoes to the onions/garlic and cook till wilted. Drain excess liquid. While frying bacon and onions, mix eggs, two cups of sharp cheese, all of the cream cheese, and the seasonings until well blended. Add bacon to the cooked squash and onions, and then stir in the cheese mixture. Pour into greased pan, add the reserved cup of grated cheese, and bake for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Swiss Chicken Breasts
½ cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
6 whole chicken breasts, halved and skinned
½ cup butter
1/3 cup water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 cups half-and-half, divided
½ cup cooking sherry
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ cups grated Swiss cheese
12 slices of ripe tomato
¾ cup chopped parsley
Combine flour, salt and paprika on waxed paper and coat chicken breasts. In large skillet, melt butter and brown chicken. Add water and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Arrange chicken in 9 x 13 baking dish. Mix cornstarch and ¼ cup half-and-half. Stir into drippings in skillet. Stir over low heat, gradually adding remaining cream until thickened. Add sherry, lemon rind and lemon juice. Pour sauce over chicken. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees F. for 35 minutes. Uncover, add a sliced tomato to each piece and sprinkle with grated cheese and parsley over the top. Bake until cheese bubbles. Serves 8 to 12.
Next week, we’re finally going to write about beef (which somehow I have failed to do). My daughter Carey Wooten has several great beef recipes and she will be helping put those together, so watch for the beef-eaters’ choices.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net