Trying to have an understanding of how I end up with ideas for recipes, is for the most part, a mystery. Last we heard from our hero, he was eating a bagel, having some yogurt and dreaming of chicken. Ah, a grand creative process you are thinking, right? Well, not the most exciting, I know, but it worked for me. I had been thinking of stuffing some chicken breasts for a while with something different than the one in my “Baywatch Stuffed Chicken Breasts” (large and swollen with stuffing, you could say, though not bouncy) Since the yogurt I was eating was of the Greek variety, my thoughts immediately turned to feta cheese and naturally spinach and mushrooms which play very nicely with that type of cheese. I also wanted to do a sauce and figured that I would do it with Greek yogurt since I never tried that before and I understand that it works, when done correctly. When I got my ingredients back to the house, I believed that I needed a bit of texture in the stuffing, the crunch factor, for lack of a better phrase, and decided to see what pistachios and feta tasted like together. All I can say is, yum! and to paraphrase the commercial, “Wonderful pistachios!” (and, oh, I did get crackin’). At first, I thought that maybe the combination was a mistake but on the second try, it still tasted as good so they ended up in the stuffing. You will notice that in this recipe there is no salt listed as an ingredient and that is because there is plenty in the chicken stock, feta cheese and pistachios so add salt at your peril. I hope you try this and let me know how it turns out. I would love to hear from you. Now on to the recipe!
The Well Fed Cyclist
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
(makes 3-4 servings)
3 to 4 – boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5oz bag – Fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup – Feta Cheese crumbles
1/3 cup – Roasted pistachio meats, fine chopped
1/4 cup – Sweet onion, diced fine (about 1/4 a medium onion)
1/3 cup – Mushrooms, diced fine
1/4 cup – Fresh parsley, chopped fine
4 to 5 cloves – Garlic, fine diced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – A few good turns around the pan will do
1/2 cup – Chicken Stock (to wilt the spinach)
Coarse Ground black pepper to taste
Oregano – Dried and ground (to dust chicken before going in the oven)
Cinnamon – Ground (to dust chicken before going in the oven)
¾ cup – Plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1 tbsp – Honey
1/4 cup – Mint, chopped fine
1/4 cup – Chicken stock
1 to 2 pats – Unsalted butter
1 – Lemon (the juice of)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – About 1/4 cup more or less
First, wilt spinach in a 4 to 5 quart pot with a tight fitting lid. Put chicken stock in the bottom and put over medium heat turning the spinach every so often until wilted. Take spinach out and let cool in a colander while it drains.
Next, in a large skillet, do a few good turns on the bottom of pan with olive oil and over low/med heat sauté onion and garlic until softened and onions become translucent. Add mushrooms and sauté on low heat for about 2-3 minutes, season to taste with pepper. Add parsley and keep on heat for another 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.
Note: Make sure that your spinach and your skillet mixture are cool because you do not want them to melt the feta when you put them together.
Now, get out your large bowl campers because there is some mixing to do. Take your spinach and squeeze as much water out of it as you can (I use cheesecloth) and finely chop before putting it in the bowl. To the bowl, add the skillet mixture, feta cheese and pistachios. Fold all of the ingredients together making sure that all of the items are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Take the bowl and put in the refrigerator to cool for about 10 minutes.
Take chicken breasts and, from the side, make a pocket by cutting the long way the entire length and almost all the way through (should look like a pita pocket). Take a spoon and stuff chicken with filling (do not overfill). Place in a baking dish and dust each chicken breast with oregano and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered for 40-50 minutes (add a bit of water to bottom of baking dish to keep moist).
Using a shallow skillet, do a couple of good turns around the pan with olive oil, add the pats of butter and honey and bring up the heat to just below medium. When the butter has melted, add the chicken stock and lemon juice and stir until mixed together (only about a minute or two). Next, lower the heat and add in the yogurt and fresh mint and whisk together. Heat until the sauce is warm. WATCH THAT PAN AND DO NOT CURDLE YOUR YOGURT, sorry to yell but I did that with the first batch of sauce that I made and had to throw it out.
-Meal served with basmati rice and a steamed carrots, broccoli and cauliflower floret mix.