In the Zone: Tommi Vincent’s Fall Favorites

I take my food seriously—which is why Tommi Vincent and I get along so well. I’ve asked Tommi to share some of the “legacy-inspired, soul-stirring” recipes that makes her table the one you want to be at whenever you get the chance because it’s the place where everyone is welcome—and where the food is second to none. This week, she’s helping us make the most out of all the good food that comes with the fall season. —M.S.

It is fall, ya’ll! The leaves give us an indication that things are changing—and have you noticed your appetite changing, too? Suddenly, you’ll find yourself craving foods that symbolize and feel like comfort. That’s your body talking to you. The temperature is starting to drop, and our bodies desire to build up insulation. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m inspired to cook meals that stick to your bones … and then send you to the sofa for a nap. Fall is the warm-up to all of the holiday-menu talk around the dinner table, and I like to kick the conversation into gear with my recipe for chicken breasts stuffed with cornbread dressing and a side of sweet potato and greens hash. Like with all of the food you prepare, be mindful of your fresh-ingredient selection and preparing as much from scratch as possible. Comfort foods thoughtfully prepared are nutritious and delicious! And if you don’t want to take my word for it, ask your 90-year-old grandparents how their foods were prepared (hint: without preservatives and all that other over-processed stuff). Enjoy!

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Cornbread Dressing 
Yields 5 servings

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
10 uncured bacon strips
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil

The dressing
3 cups prepared cornbread, crumbled
1/3 cup medium diced green peppers
1/3 cup medium diced onions
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 cup unsalted chicken stock, set 1 cup aside for pan gravy

Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 375° F. 2. In a medium bowl combine cornbread dressing ingredients and 1 cup of unsalted chicken stock, set aside. 3. Cut a slit in each chicken breast horizontally; be careful not to cut through the other side. Stuff chicken breast with cornbread dressing. 4. Lay vertically, two bacon strips side by side on a cutting board. Place chicken breast on top of the bacon, topside down. Tie each piece of bacon. Repeat for each chicken breast. Turn chicken breast over and season with salt and pepper. 5. Drizzle olive oil in a hot oven-safe skillet. Place chicken breast in the skillet, topside facing down. 6. Sear for 3 minutes, allowing golden color to develop. 7. Flip breast, tied side of bacon should be facing down, sear for 3 minutes. 8. Move skillet to oven, uncovered. Bake until chicken is cooked through, approximately 25 minutes or when chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F.3 9. Remove from the oven. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside to rest. 10. Place the skillet over medium heat; whisk 1 tablespoon of flour into skillet until smooth. Add remaining unsalted chicken stock, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. 11. Place chicken breast back in the skillet. Spoon gravy over chicken breast. Serve immediately.

Tommi’s Tips:
There are multiple options for the prepared cornbread: bake from scratch, bake from box, store bought corn muffins or cornbread from your grocery store’s bakery section.

As a rule of thumb, when available, purchase products that are unsalted, so you control the sodium content.

An electronic thermometer is a great investment. There is no guessing involved. Cook your meats to the perfect internal temperature.

Sweet Potato & Greens Hash
Yields 5 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 large peeled sweet potatoes, medium diced
3 large collard green leaves, stems removed and cut in thin ribbons
3 Tuscan kale leaves, stems removed and cut in thin ribbons
1/2 red onion, medium diced
1/2 green pepper, medium diced
1 garlic clove, minced 
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste 

Directions: 1. Add oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to hot skillet. 2. Add in sweet potatoes, red onions, and green peppers. Sauté until sweet potatoes are tender, approximately 10 minutes. 3. Fold in collards, kale, garlic, seasoning, and remaining butter. 4. Once butter melts, turn off the heat. Serve immediately.