January 30, 2009

Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts

One of my roommates in college would make chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and feta on a fairly regular basis. They always looked delicious, and for some reason it's taken me 4 years to make them. I had a couple chicken breasts leftover from when I made chicken curry, and I had four lonesome artichoke hearts that have been sitting in my fridge since the last time we had pizza - a few weeks ago. It was getting to the point where I needed to use the artichoke hearts or toss them out, so I made the right choice and used them up. I also had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, a bag of spinach, and a giant hunk (no, I'm not talking about Matt) of queso fresco, and they all seemed like the perfect combo for stuffing into chicken.

First I crumbled a little of the cheese. I was actually wanting to use feta, but after walking home from school in the bitter cold I did not feel like going back outside if I could at all help it. So I used what I had in the fridge, and luckily queso fresco is somewhat similar to feta - it's a little salty and it crumbles well. I probably used about 1/3 cup.

Here lie the four lonesome artichoke hearts. Which will soon be chopped into little bitty pieces. Still preferable to an existence in a landfill somewhere, if you ask me.

Chop chop chop.

Rinse rinse rinse the sun-dried tomatoes. I only do this because they're in a jar with oil, and I like to rinse off as much of the oil as I can. Please don't make fun of my fat thumbs. I was once told they're a sign of intelligence. I cannot dispute that.

Chop chop chop again.

Now comes the fun part. Oh my. I have found a new favorite thing to do in the kitchen: pounding meat. (TWSS). It is so much fun! I started with a sheet of wax paper topped with a piece of saran wrap. I set a chicken breast on that and topped it with another piece of saran wrap. And pound pound pound. You really have to put a little muscle in it, or you will be pounding and getting nowhere.

To give you an idea of the fun you can have and the great accomplishment you can have, here is the chicken before...

And here it is after. I did that! Yes, me! And it was AWESOME! It kind of looks like a flounder. The last time I ate flounder was when I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Chapel Hill, and they took me to dinner at Lantern. If you ask nicely I will tell you what happened later on that night, but I will spare you the details unless you really, really want to know.

After your chicken is pounded to a fairly uniform thickness, you can shift your focus back to the stuffing. I thought it would be best to saute the spinach before stuffing the chicken to get some of the moisture out. First I pressed a few cloves of garlic and sauteed them in a tiny bit of oil over medium heat. Once they were a starting to brown I added about 5 handfuls of spinach.

Here's what I ended up with after about 10 minutes.

After the spinach cooled a little I added it to a bowl with the other stuffing ingredients and mixed it all together. Kind of looks like Christmas, doesn't it?

Spread the filling over each chicken breast. I didn't go all the way to the edge because I didn't want it falling out.

Roll it up fairly tight. Oh yeah, I sprinkled some oregano on it before I rolled it up.

Stick a few toothpicks in to keep it sealed.

Place them seam-side down in a baking dish. I knew they reminded me of something, and I just realized that they look a little like giant pieces of sushi.

I baked them at 350 for 30-40 minutes. I wasn't really sure how long it would take, so I ended up slicing one open to make sure the chicken on the inside was cooked. No foodborne illnesses in my kitchen!

We ate our stuffed chicken with some steamed brussels sprouts and Pioneer Woman's delicious Crash Hot Potatoes. It was really good and really fun to make. The only thing I would do differently would be to put some kind of sauce or something on top of it while baking so the top doesn't dry out. I'm not really sure what would work, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

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