Hello! Chef Eric here! Today’s dish was improvised by utilizing ingredients that I had on hand. While this one is a bit more advanced than my previous entries, I believe anyone can craft it if they are determined! Let’s make Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken with Lemon Sage Sauce.
The dish ended up being a nice riff on classic Greek flavors, and while I made some mistakes along the way, I was able to correct course, and you have my word that I’ll do my best to steer you clear of my mishaps so you can enjoy this stuffed chicken dish stress free.
- Chicken Breast
- Feta Cheese
- Dry Oregano
- Chopped Chives
- Panko Bread Crumbs
- Cloves Fresh Garlic
- Sprig Fresh Sage
- Chicken Broth
Let’s begin by prepping our ingredients.
First, do a rough chop on the spinach, then slice the garlic into thin little “chips”.
Next, chop the chives and sage finely, then zest the whole lemon and cut it into quarters.
The feta I had on hand was pre-crumbled, but there were a few chunks that needed attention, so just make sure you have a fine crumble.
Now, put a saucepan over medium-low heat and add 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil, and then add your sliced garlic. Lightly sauté the garlic, just enough to take the raw edge off, then add the fresh spinach, and about a tsp. of the lemon zest before squeezing in some juice from 1/8th of the lemon.
Continue sautéing until the spinach is wilted. This will reduce the size dramatically, but don’t worry, this is completely normal. When it’s finished, it should look something like this.
Transfer the spinach onto a plate, and allow it to cool. Once it’s reached room temperature, we can move on to prepare the stuffing.
Add the sautéed spinach mixture, bread crumbs, feta, oregano, and a pinch of lemon zest to a medium mixing bowl, mix everything together with a fork until it’s thoroughly incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
You may add a squeeze of lemon but remember to only add a little at a time; you can always add more, but you can’t take any away.
Once you’re satisfied with the taste, take the egg and whip it in a small bowl before adding it to the mixture. Thoroughly incorporate the whipped egg into the stuffing.
Let’s Vent Our Frustration
It’s time to prepare our chicken. Take a gallon-sized zip lock bag, and add a tbsp. of vegetable oil inside. Work the oil inside the bag until it coats the entire thing.
Insert a single chicken breast into the bag and find something heavy to smash it with. The bag is used to help ensure that we don’t spread raw chicken juice all over the kitchen, and this step is where I made my first mistake. I started on the chicken with a standard meat pounder, and the jagged pointy bits tore right through the bag.
After correcting my mistake and obtaining a fresh bag, I continued to flatten the chicken by using the flat-surfaced bottom of a frying pan.
You’ll want to reduce the chicken to around 1/4 inch thick all over.
Please, take your time with this step and do not smash the meat with your full strength, you don’t want to tear any holes in the chicken.
Now for the tricky part, we’ve gotta stuff that chicken! Lay a sheet of plastic wrap down on your countertop, or cutting board.
Next, you’re going to need three pieces of butchers twine, about 8-10 inches long.
Place the twine 2-3 inches apart, depending on how large your flattened chicken is, and then lay a piece of chicken down over the twine.
Begin covering your chicken with the stuffing. You’ll want it to be about 1/4 inch thick while leaving a little space on the left and right sides to allow the stuffing room to expand without spilling as we cook the chicken.
Now, let’s roll the chicken. Use your plastic as a make-shift sushi roller, and roll your chicken. Take your time, this is, in fact – rocket surgery.
Once your chicken is more or less rolled, tie the butcher’s twine and trim any excess string away.
Roll your chicken in the plastic, being sure to leave the excess plastic wrap on each end.
Twist the excess plastic on the ends like a tootsie roll to compress the chicken, and make it tight.
Refrigerate for at least an hour.
As the chicken cools in the fridge, take a moment to clean up, and then relax for a while. You’ve earned it. That wasn’t easy, but you pulled it off.
What The Heck is Fond?
I need to explain the thought process that leads to my second mistake making this dish.
Fond is the dark bits left behind when you brown anything in a pan.
It’s pure flavor and the backbone for any pan sauce!
My plan was to start cooking this chicken on the stovetop, then transfer it to an oven to finish. I was obsessed with not burning the fond in this two-part cooking process, and of course, I overdid it.
I wanted to use a standard stainless steel pan to brown the chicken as it’s difficult to develop a rich fond in a nonstick pan. Cook the chicken at medium-low heat, which leads to a lot of sticking. This left sizeable bits of chicken stuck to the bottom of the pan, which I later had to strain out.
No big deal, but I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect. Even a professional chef with 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry makes mistakes, and I will always keep it real with ya’ll. So let’s learn from my mistakes and get back to it!
Back To It
Retrieve the cooled chicken from the fridge, unwrap it, drizzle a little vegetable oil over it, roll it around a plate to coat it in oil, and lightly salt and pepper it on all sides.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place a ceramic oven-safe non-stick skillet over medium-high heat (we want a pan that won’t have a melted handle once we put it into the oven). Add 2 tbsp. vegetable oil.
When the pan is good and hot, use tongs to carefully add the chicken rolls, and begin browning on all sides. This should take 2-3 minutes per side.
Next, add half of your chicken stock to the pan. This helps prevent the fond from burning.
Insert a probe thermometer into the center of one of the rolls.
Place the pan into the preheated oven and cook to an internal temperature of 165°F.
Remove the pan from the oven and use your tongs to move your chicken onto a plate to rest.
Place the pan back on medium heat, and add the rest of your chicken broth, along with the chopped sage, 1tsp of lemon zest, 1tsp of chopped chives, and the juice from 1/8 lemon.
Bring to a simmer while working the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to liberate all of the fond from the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat, add 2 tbsp. of soft butter, and salt and pepper to taste.
Let’s get this on the table already!
Let your chicken rest for 5 or so minutes, then slice off the ends and munch on those right away; you’ve earned it!
Slice the rest of the roll into 1/2 in. slices, arrange the slices onto a plate, and spoon over some of that amazing pan sauce.
Serve with nice rice pilaf, or maybe some sautéed veggies!
Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken, with Lemon Sage Sauce
- Zip Lock Bag (Gallon)
- Plastic Wrap
- Butcher's Twine
- Ceramic Oven-Safe Non-Stick Skillet
- Standard Oven
- Standard Stove
- Probe Therometer
- Wooden Spoon
- 2 Chicken Breast
- 4 oz Feta Cheese
- 4 oz Spinach
- 1 Lemon
- 1 tsp Dry Oregano
- 1/3 cup Chopped Chives
- 1/2 cup Pank Bread Crumbs
- 1 Egg
- 5 Fresh Garlic Cloves (medium)
- 1 Sprig of Fresh Sage
- 1/2 cup Chicken Broth
- 2 tbsp Butter
- Chop Spinach
- Slice Garlic into thin 'chips'
- Ensure Feta is a fine crumble
- Put a sauce pan over medium-low heat, add 2 tbsb. of vegetable oil, add sliced garlic and sauté to take the edge off
- Add spinach to the pan and a tsp. of lemon zest, squeeze in lemon juice from 1/8th of lemon
- Sauté until spinach is wilted, transfer spinach onto a plate to cool.
Preparing The Stuffing
- Add sautéed spinach mixture, bread crumbs, feta, oregano and a pinch of lemon zest to a medium mixing bowl; mix until incorporated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- (optional) Squeeze lemon, but only a bit at a time to ensure you don't overdo it
- Crack an egg in a small bowl, whip it, add to mixture then incorporate
Prepping the Chicken
- Open gallon sized ziplock bag and add a tbsp. of vegetable oil, work the oil inside the bag until the insides are coated
- Insert a single chicken breast into the bag, smash the chicken down to around 1/4 inch all over using a flat surface such as the bottom of a pan; be sure not to smash hard enough to put holes in the chicken
Stuffing the Chicken
- Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter or cutting board
- Place three pieces of butcher's twine (about 8-10 inches long) 2-3 inches apart on the plastic
- Lay a piece of chicken over the twine
- Cover your chicken with the stuffing, about 1/4 inch thick and leave space on the left and right sides to allow expansion during cooking
- Using the plastic as a makeshift roller, roll your chicken, be sure to leave excess plastic on each end
- Twist the excess plastic like a tootsie roll, tie the butcher's twine and trim away excess string
- Refrigerate for at least one hour
Cooking the Chicken
- Retrieve chicken from the fridge, unwrap, drizzle a little vegetable oil over it, roll it on a plate to coat it in the oil, lightly salt and pepper on all sides
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Place a ceramic oven-safe non-stick skillet over medium-high heat (this skillet must be oven-safe so the handle doesn't melt in a few steps), add 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil
- Once the pan is hot, use tongs to add chicken rolls and begin browning on all sides; this should take 2-3 minutes per side
- Add half of your chicken stock to the pan
- Insert a probe thermometer into the center of one roll
- Place pan into preheated oven and cook to an internal temperature of 165°F
- Once temperature is reached, remove the pan from the oven and use your tongs to move your chicken to a plate to rest
Collecting the Fond
- Place the pan back onto medium-heat
- Add the rest of your chicken broth, chopped sage, 1 tsp of lemon zest, 1 tsp of chopped chives, and juice from 1/8 lemon
- Bring to a simmer while working the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to liberate the fond from the bottom of the pan
- Remove pan from heat, add 2 tbsp. of soft butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Getting Ready to Serve
- Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes
- Slice off the ends, feel free to snack on these
- Slice the rest of the roll into 1/2 in. slices, arrange slices onto a plate and spoon over the pan sauce
- Serve with a side; perhaps a nice rice pilaf, or maybe some sautéed veggies!
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