Are any of you big fans of Pinterest? I am, although I tend to go in spurts, and I really tend to pin more things than I could possibly make in a lifetime – make that several lifetimes! Well, here’s a recipe similar to one I’ve seen floating around on Pinterest: Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts.
I did decide to rework the concept a little bit and these Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts are just a beautiful thing. They’look kind of fancy and that’s because I couldn’t resist a little drama in the presentation and tied the breasts up with a little butcher’s twine. That’s really pretty easy to do but tooth picks work just fine, too, to hold that stuffing in.
About Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts:
But that stuffing – oh my. It’s what really makes the chicken. You’ll probably never guess how healthy this is as you cut into it and see all the goodness inside. There’s flavor for miles, Spinach and Feta Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. And that’s all accented with some Italian Seasoning Blend (I have my own special Homemade Blend if you’re into mixing up your own) and a touch of garlic.
There’s also an optional sauce just in case you want to guild the lily. It’s just a simple little pan sauce, nothing to it really, but it’s a shame to waste all the drippings in the bottom of the pan. It does include a little wine and it’s made super easy with a little vinaigrette instead of a lot of ingredients. Although it might be a little strange, I love the sauce made with a touch of my Honey Citrus Vinaigrette. I think the slightly citrus flavor that comes through accents the flavors in the chicken. Another (and maybe more expected) approach would be to just use a little Italian Salad dressing and that would drive the Mediterranean flavors home.
And why not add a few carrots to roast along with the chicken? Oven-roasted carrots are divine – just a little olive oil and a hint of salt brings out their sweetness. A bit of rice or maybe a little rice pilaf is all that’s needed to complete this meal. And this is my kind of meal: just chi chi enough to look all gourmet when really it’s all very doable. Best of all, everyone ate their spinach – it was all tucked inside and tasted wonderful with the melty cheese & sun-dried tomatoes.
Making Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts:
Since the spinach isn’t precooked in this recipe, it’s nice to remove the stems so they don’t stick out all willy nilly when the chicken is stuffed or remain hard in the finished chicken. Cook that chicken to about 160 degrees F, making sure to check the actual chicken, then let it rest; the temperature should rise as it rests to the proper temperature of 165 degrees. I don’t stuff this ahead but if you do I’d go to 165 just to be on the safe side.
Since I’m a geek, one of the favorite parts of this recipe is the way I tied the chicken breast up, which is actually pretty easy to do, but toothpicks work just fine if you’d rather. It’s easy to tie. Use a string longer than you’d think, then keep wrapping it around the breast, looping each wrap through the one above it in the center of the breast, leaving some slack, about 3/4 of an inch, then repeat. You’ll have to kind of “arrange” each wrap around and pull it snug as you go. Tie off your long string to the tail left on the underside of the breast.
Saving Money on Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts:
Shop carefully for your chicken and know the highs and lows in your area; normally chicken will drop to a rock bottom low once a quarter or so. The larger family packs are generally less per pound so pick them up and portion in sizes your family will use and freeze.
Feta cheese can be a pricy item and you’ll want to consider the options when you buy. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to check at a market or at least check at your store’s deli area. And beware! The packaged crumbles might look less expensive but ounce for ounce the blocks are usually a better value – if you figure out the cost of the crumbles, they can run from $16.00 to $21.00 a pound, all for a little three to four once package sold for $3.99. I do have a post on What to Know About Feta that includes tips on shopping, storage, and nutrition.
While prepackaged bags of spinach are becoming the norm and certainly look like a better value at a glance, it usually runs between 4 to 10 times the amount of picking up spinach by the bundle. See, the loose spinach is just “fluffier” and looks like more. It doesn’t help that the spinach in a bundle is often priced by the bunch and that in the bag is priced by the ounce, which can make it difficult to compare. You can bet the producers count on this.
Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts
- 8 carrots, prepared as directed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt to taste (for the carrots)
Stuffed Chicken Breasts:
- 4 boneless skinless, chicken breasts, each about 5 ounces
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta (water-packed is best)
- 9 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, finely diced and about a teaspoon & 1/2 of the flavored oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 2 cups fresh spinach, lightly chopped, stems removed
- garlic salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional if needed
Sauce Ingredients, Optional
- 1 – 2 small cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup salad dressing (I used Honey Citrus but Italian or any other oil-based vinaigrette will work)
- 1 teaspoon butter
Pre-heat oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Cut 4 pieces of string about 2 1/2 feet long.
Prepare carrots by cutting into 4″ lengths and cutting the larger pieces in half lengthwise. Add to sheet pan on one side and drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss together and place in oven and cook for about 20 minutes while you prepare the chicken.
While the carrots are having their head start, make a cut horizontally into, but not through, the chicken breast, forming a pocket. Make small shallow cuts to ensure the pocket is as deep and large as can be while still keeping the breast intact.
In a small bowl, mix together the feta, the sun-dried tomatoes, the teaspoon and a half of oil from the tomatoes, and the Italian seasoning.
Working with one breast at a time, open it up and lay in 1/4 of the cheese mixture and top with a quarter of the spinach. When the breasts are all stuffed, tie each breast up, encasing the filling in the breast. Trim any extra string. Sprinkle as desired with garlic salt.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add about two tablespoons olive oil. Brown each breast, turning as needed. Remove the sheet pan with the carrots from the oven and add the chicken. Replace in the oven and continue to bake for about 11 to 12 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and tests 165 degrees in the center.
Meanwhile, pour off excess olive oil from pan the breasts were sauteed in. Allow to cool slightly, then add a teaspoon of chopped garlic and 1/2 cup wine. Place back on burner and reduce the wine by half, then add 1/2 cup Honey Citrus Vinaigrette (or other vinaigrette of your choice.)
Scrape the bottom of the pan, reduce again by half. Set aside off heat and while somewhat cooled, yet still warm, add about a teaspoon of butter, stirring gently till melted and the sauce is emulsified. (Do not add the drippings from the sheet pan; too much oil and too hot will break the sauce.)
Rest chicken for five minutes before serving with the carrots. Drizzle each breast with a little of the sauce.
This is a special week for me: I’m still cohosting Throwback Thursday with Quinn, Carlee, Meaghan & Alli (click on the link) of course, but I’m also a cohost on Angie’s Fiesta Friday! Scarlett from the Unwed Housewife is my cohost, so stop by and check out her blog, too. 🙂 I’ll be sharing Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts both places this week.