Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Hey Crushers,

My favorite part of reading cookbooks, cooking websites and cooking blogs is when I see a recipe that triggers a meal. The even better part is when I realize that I have the ingredients in my house to make the dish or at least something inspired by the recipe I just read.

I can't remember where I read about spinach and cheese filled chicken, but I did remember to buy spinach and chicken last week, so there's half the kitchen battle, right? Plus, they were both on sale, so it was a win-win situation! Other ingredients that I just happened to have on hand were bread crumbs and feta cheese from last week's Greek Chicken Burgers. I made a few batches of 1, 2, 3 Lasagna using half of the bag of spinach as veggie change-up, but there were about two handfuls left in the bag and that was plenty! Although this recipe sounded fancy when I read it, I was surprised that what I actually did was kind of easy. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts
3 chicken boneless, skinless breasts
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
1/2 medium to large onion
1-2 tsp Greek seasoning (I used the Wildtree kind, but I know Penzey's sells it too)
1 egg
2/3 cup bread crumbs (mine had some Italian seasoning in it, but I don't think that matters too much)

What to have on hand:
Cooking spray, a 13 x 9 pan or dish, two bowls, a really sharp knife and a food processor if you have one.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put the two cheeses, onion, Greek seasoning and the fresh spinach in the food processor. Use the pulse button about 10 -15 times or until the mixture is just chunky. If you chop it up too much, all the liquid from the onion and spinach releases and you have a cheesy green soup that's too runny to use. Set it aside while you slice up the chicken. If you don't have a food processor, I bet you could use a blender or just chop it up really fine.
See how it's still a little chunky? That's the consistency that you want.
Tip: Before you slice the chicken and get your hands all covered in raw chicken, set out two bowls. Beat the egg in one bowl and pour the bread crumbs in the other. You should also spray the baking dish with a light layer of cooking spray. This way you can just work from the chicken to the egg wash to the crumbs to the pan without needing to say, "Oh crap, I forgot such-and-such..."
Ok, let's go back to the chicken. Take that sharp knife I told you about and cut each chicken breast in half  the long way. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but you still want two meaty/thick pieces, but you are just cutting them in two big strips. If that doesn't make sense, let me know in the comments. Anyway, once you've got them cut in half, you need to make a slit in the side of the now-halved chicken breast so that it makes a little chicken pocket.
Yes, I know that sounds gross or dirty or whatever, but just go with it
Once you have all of those sliced up, it's time to stuff the chicken. Take a large spoonful of the spinach mixture and stuff the chicken. You can pack the spinach in pretty firmly, but don't over stuff it or it will fall out when you dip it in the egg wash. I held the chicken closed over the spinach and dipped it in both the egg wash and crumbs and then placed it in the pan.
Tip: You might have some crumbs left, so feel free to sprinkle those over the chicken since you'll be baking it right away. Whatever you do, don't save the crumbs or the egg to reuse for another dish. It is contaminated with raw chicken and no one wants salmonella bread crumbs. Ew. Throw it out!
They hold together pretty well, but if you need to, you could always stick a toothpick through the chicken to hold it. Repeat with all of the sliced chicken halves.

Six chicken breast halves ready for the oven!
Bake the chicken for at least 30 minutes. You want the internal temperature to reach 160 and for the juices to run clear. Since the juices will be slightly green from the spinach, you won't hurt the dish by baking it for 35-40 minutes. It'll be fine.

If you have left over spinach and cheese mixture, feel free to pop that in the microwave and heat it up as a topping for the chicken or mix it in some rice like we did. Delicious!

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