There are two things in life that I’m sure strike fear in the hearts of most sane people in this world; the first being moving, and the second being a package of chicken breasts thawing in the fridge. I had the good fortune to experience both in the same day this week.
For the past week I’ve been in California helping my parents to pack and move from the home they’ve lived in for the past 21 years and ship them out here to the Midwest where we would be able to annoy them from close range. They being 87 years old made it all the more fun as they have both developed a very keen and wry sense of humor.
On the day in question, my Mother, bless her heart, decided she wanted to use up the contents of her freezer and took some chicken breasts out to thaw. And after an exhausting day of packing, sorting and cleaning out the accumulated treasures of their entire life, it fell to me to face my fear of the thawed chicken breast and make something nourishing, yet magically delicious with them.
A good rummage through the fridge produced some frozen spinach and goat cheese, and within the hour we were dining on these scrumptious stuffed chicken breasts accompanied by some roasted potatoes and a lovely salad. And more than 1 bottle of wine might I add. And as inclined as I had been to order Chinese, it was so wonderful to end that day with a nourishing home-cooked meal.
I tell you this to make a very simple point… these are easy enough to throw together at the end of an exhausting day of cleaning, sorting and packing up your parents’ house. It would be ever more enjoyable to make these when you have even more time and energy, but they are well worth the effort whenever you decide to throw them together.
So here’s a little how-to…
I've included 2 recipes for stuffing... we love em both....
SCRUMPTIOUS STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS
Here is a step-by-step guide for stuffing chicken breasts. You may use any stuffing you like, or I have included two of my favorite stuffing recipes below.
1. Make a pocket on the thicker side of each breast: Using a sharp knife, cut into the breast about ½ inch from one end. Create a pocket, slicing to within about ¼ inch of the other side.
2. Stuff each breast with some filling, distributing it evenly throughout the pocket and to the ends. Press on the top of each breast to close the pocket.
3. Line up three wide shallow dishes. Fill the first with ¾ cup flour. In the second, whisk 2 large eggs, and in the the third, 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs mixed with salt and pepper.
4. Season the breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip it into the eggs, turning to coat evenly and then dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing to make the crumbs adhere evenly. Gently shake off any excess. Refrigerate for at least 5 minutes and up to 3 hours to let the breading set.
5. Heat oven to 350°.
6. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet. When the oil is very hot, carefully add the stuffed breasts, two at a time to the pan and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer breasts to a foil-lined baking pan that's been coated with cooking spray and bake about 20 minutes.
Fillings for Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Artichoke, Spinach and Goat Cheese:
Makes enough to stuff 4 – 6 chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1 cup finely chopped shallots (6to 8 medium)
5 oz frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
8 oz canned or frozen artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
3.5 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
¼ tsp kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Heat olive oil over medium high heat and add the shallots, sautéing until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce. Remove from the heat and stir in the artichoke hearts, goat cheese, salt and pepper. Let cool to room temp.
Poblano Chile and Jack Cheese Filling:
Makes enough to stuff 6-8 chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1 ½ cups ¼-inch dice fresh poblano chiles (about 2 large) (can substitute canned diced chiles)
1 cup of ¼-inch diced red onion (half a medium onion)
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp kosher salt
fresh black pepper
1 ½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat olive oil over medium high heat and add the chopped chiles and onion. Saute until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes and add the garlic, Tabasco, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook for another few minutes until fragrant, remove from the heat, let cool and add the grated cheese and chopped cilantro.