“This is a special menu that I like to fix especially over Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays because you can prepare it ahead one day, and bake it the next. Plus, it isn’t difficult to fix at all,” said Gillis, a homemaker. She and her husband, Donald, have two grown sons and one daughter.
Mary serves the dish over white and wild rice with roasted asparagus and Kahlua and pecan pie.
“(Crab-stuffed chicken breasts) is so good, and it’s so easy. It’s real good because it’s real fancy looking but you can do it a day ahead or two days ahead,” she said.
The recipe originally came from a Southern Living cookbook in the 1980s that Mary adapted over the years.
“I can’t believe the first time I ever fixed it was when I was expecting my oldest in 1980,” she said.
The dish is a family favorite.
“All of my kids like that recipe,” Gillis said. “With three kids, you’re lucky if you can find something everyone likes.”
Cooking at the Gillis home is often a family affair.
“I’ve got these two daughters-in-law who are always asking me for recipes,” she said.
Because chicken stuffed with crabmeat with white grape sauce is a Gillis favorite, Mary’s daughters-in-law, Miranda and Molly, both received the recipe. Miranda, a producer for WSB-TV and event planner for local restaurant The Butcher The Baker, is married to Colin, Southeast acquisition representative for JRK Investors, Los Angeles. Molly, who is married to local attorney Austin, is an attorney with the Cobb County District Attorney’s office.
Gillis also encourages her daughter, Mary Claire, a graduate of Oglethorpe University who is a candidate for a Masters in Teaching at Kennesaw State University, to get involved in the kitchen.
“Usually Mary Claire’s my good cleanup control,” she said.
Gillis said, “I am a faithful collector of cookbooks. I look at recipes all the time on the Internet. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I’m more of tweaker of recipes. I fix it one time and the next time, I change it. I’m always helping the recipes to evolve.”
“This recipe is impressive. It’s easy to fix.” Gillis said.
MARY’S CRAB STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS
WITH WHITE GRAPE SAUCE
6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Place each chicken breast between 2 pieces of waxed paper. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten to ¼-inch thickness. Set aside.
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon butter
3 slices of white bread (crusts removed) torn into small pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
½ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1 pound pasteurized crabmeat (the less expensive back fin crab is fine)
Sauté onion and celery in the butter until barely wilted. Transfer to a bowl and lightly mix with remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste. Place approximately ¼ cup of the stuffing in the middle of the chicken. Fold ends over so stuffing is enclosed. Secure with toothpicks. (You will use a lot of toothpicks sometimes—other times not that many. Toothpicks will be removed before serving so the number doesn’t matter! Use only natural colored toothpicks as multicolored ones bleed.) Dredge each breast in seasoned flour.
In large skillet heat:
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
Brown the chicken until lightly golden. Transfer to a 15 by 10 by 1.5-inch jellyroll pan. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove toothpicks. While chicken is cooking, make the white grape sauce.
For white grape sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 cups packaged (32-ounce size) chicken broth. This will enable you to add more if it is necessary to thin sauce.
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8-teaspoon white pepper
1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 cups white grapes, sliced in half if small or chopped if large.
Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook 1 minutes stirring constantly. Gradually add broth, cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Stir in sugar, salt, white pepper and lemon juice. (Add more chicken broth if needed.) Add grapes to sauce right before serving.
Place chicken on a bed of white and wild rice. Spoon a small amount of sauce over the chicken. Serve remaining sauce at table, to be added if desired.