Sunday, December 22, 2013

Spinach, Mushroom, Artichoke and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

We never rarely eat chicken at home.  Beer can chicken during the summer is probably 90% of our dining on home-cooked poultry.  Although we did have this chili not too long ago (a great alternative to the usual chili) and we like to put cooked chicken on a pizza.  And when the wife is away, baking chicken wings is my go-to meal when cooking for one. Seeking a change-up in our meal plan, I thought stuffing chicken breasts with spinach, mushrooms, and feta would be damn tasty.  Then I decided artichokes should join the party.  Since chicken breasts can be quite boring, this Mediterranean stuffing sure did transform plain chicken into a tasty meal.  Serve with some brown rice and a green salad, that's dinner.

It was hard to tell while the chicken was packaged, but after getting home and pulling out my breasts, I realized I had some massive portions of meat.  Like Dolly Parton of poultry size.  Depending on how big your breasts are, you could have enough stuffing for 4-6 pieces.  Any leftover stuffing should be tossed, as you're most likely handling that and raw chicken with the same hands. 

Don't buy those feta crumbles, that's not good eating.  Spend a couple more bucks for a real imported block and dice it yourself.  There will be some leftover to make this or this

When cooking the mushrooms, try to spread them out as much as possible in your skillet so they saute, not steam.  Work in batches if necessary.

If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you need to get one.  They are cheap and are the best utensil for searing meats like this chicken or burgers, steaks, etc.  Did I mention frying bacon?  Lodge is a good affordable brand. 

A food thermometer is important for roasting or grilling meats so you don't overcook your animals or even worse, serve people food that isn't cooked properly.  Steaks and such you can judge by the firmness, but for pork and chicken I always use the thermometer.  Cease the cooking when the temp reaches 5°F of the 'done' temp, it will reach that mark while resting.  For chicken, that's out of the oven at 160°F.  And with this recipe, the middle of the chicken is stuffed, so you want to probe in the thickest part of the breast that is all meat.     

Spinach, Mushroom, Artichoke and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 large or 6 medium chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 small onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
8 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 bunch spinach, trimmed of stems
6 oz artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 C diced feta cheese
2/3 C AP flour
2 large eggs
1-2 C fresh bread crumbs

In a large skillet, saute the onion in a bit of EVOO over medium heat until softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Season with a pinch of S&P while cooking.  Add in the minced garlic and cook for another sixty seconds.  Remove to a large bowl and let cool.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the mushrooms, in as much of a single layer as possible.  Once they have lost some moisture after 3 minutes or so, add in a bit of EVOO and stir.  Cook until just browned, stirring often, another 4-5 minutes.  Add to the large bowl with the onion. 

Wash your spinach and leave dripping wet.  Add to the skillet and cover for a minute, then stir with tongs until it is wilted.  Remove to a work surface layered with a few paper towels.  Squeeze out as much moisture as you can, then chop finely and add to the bowl with onion and mushroom.  Add in the chopped artichoke and feta as well once everything has cooled.  Season with freshly cracked black pepper and stir it up.  

Fire up the oven to 350°F.

Assemble your breading station- one pan with AP flour (season with S&P if desired), one pan with bread crumbs, and one shallow bowl with the eggs, beaten lightly.

On a work surface appropriate to handle raw chicken, make a pocket in the middle of each breast with a sharp knife.  Slice carefully so you don't halve the breast.  Stuff each with as much filling as you can, packing it in with your finger or a spoon.  Close each breast with 3-4 toothpicks.

Get a couple TB of canola or vegetable heating up in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  While heating, begin the breading.

Breading station-

Roll each stuffed chicken breast in the pan with the flour with your right hand.  Your leftie is for the egg and bread crumb.  Roll in the egg and let excess drip off, then coat in the bread crumbs turning a couple times.  Place on a sheet pan or plate.  

Once your oven is up to temp and your oil is rippling, turn that fan on and get to the frying.  Gently place in the skillet, the closed sides towards the middle.

Cook until nicely browned, about 3-4 minutes.  Watch carefully so you don't burn the bread crumbs.  Flip onto the other side and place in the oven.  Cook until temp reaches 160°F in the thickest part of the meat, about 12-15 minutes.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes, remove the toothpicks, then slice into medallions. 

 This little end of the chicky got toasted a little too much in the pan, so that went to the chef. 

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