Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Chicken


Chicken scares the hell out of me.  Everything that's been within a foot of raw chicken needs to be boiled immediately.  I was a vegetarian as a teenager and I blame that for why I'm afraid of meat, but chicken takes top prize*. 

So, ready for a "recipe"?  It's not scary once it's cooked. In fact it's delicious.

I stuff chicken with lots of stuff, but the constant is leafy greens.  I used spinach here, forgetting I had a bundle of chard in the fridge.  I'm kicking myself over that.  Greens and sundried tomatoes, greens and roasted red peppers, etc.  So the "recipe" for stuffing chicken, in my mind, is a handful of leafy greens, something that tastes more interesting, and cheese.  Folks will tell you to use an egg, and maybe if you use a runny cheese you'll need something to hold it together, but if you're using ricotta or feta or something similarly dry, I don't think it needs any binding.

So the first thing I do is flatten my chicken a bit. You could take a knife and run it sideways through a breast and butterfly it, but I'm about as scared of knives as a I am of chicken, and this doesn't need to be superflat, so I just beat the shit out of it with a mallet.

You can lay it between two sheets of parchment to do this, but I actually prefer freezer paper because it has a shiny side that feels to me like it's keeping the evil chicken juices away, so I lay it shiny side down on the table and sandwich the chicken in between.

And then I beat on it until I worry that the neighbors are getting concerned (I live in a rowhome) and I decide it's "flat enough". Again, this isn't going to be chicken parm or anything, so it doesn't need to be paper thin, just less lumpy. Focus your mallet on the thicker bits.

I felt the need to boil my camera at this point.
In my case, that extra lil flap of chicken came off, which is fine, I made a smaller serving out of those. So I beat the crap out of two breasts, and then tossed them around with some spices - I used red pepper flakes, oregano, and parsley. No salt, because I'm using cheese. You could marinate it in the sauce of your choice (homemade italian dressing?) but I'm going to sauce it up later, so this worked for me.

Then make the filling. In my case, spinach, bacon, parmesan and ricotta. For two big dinner servings and lunch, I used about a cup of spinach, four slices of bacon crumbled, a quarter cup of parm and about two huge forkfuls of ricotta.

three tablespoons? 
So in the end, my filling looked like this, only less blurry:

Take your somewhat flattened chicken and pile filling onto it in a clump so you can wrap it up,

then roll it and seal with toothpicks. I made a little "sandwich" with the extra flaps, there's stuffing in the middle there. We'll call that lunch.

Yes, you see the nasty pre cooked edge I got from over-defrosting.
Throw that in at 350 and then start thinking sauce. I put frozen cubes of veggie stock in about a half cup of pinot grigio, and brought it to a boil, then let it reduce a bit.

I think its about equal parts stock and wine.
Once it had reduced by about half, I stirred in a good squirt of lemon juice and about a tablespoon of mustard - I actually used this stuff from Trader Joe's.

And let that simmer a bit until it was a sauce. This photo is all wrong, color wise, but it shows the texture I'm talking about. Imagine a dark yellow sauce, instead of whatever horrifying color this is.

Once the chicken is done (40 minutes at 350? You know when it's done.  Not pink.)

spoon the sauce over it. Remove the toothpicks and call it dinner.

*It didn't help that a few weeks ago I was talking to my dad about food - about seitan, I think - and my dad, the meateater, said "You ever get the feeling chicken is just poison?  I've been feeling that way lately."

click the thing you want to read about