Recipe of the week: Spinach- and Cheese-stuffed Chicken Breasts

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comfort-food-cookbook_0Sloppy Joes, chicken potpie, mashed potatoes and meatloaf.

Comfort food can mean something different depending on where and when you grew up, so it’s a good thing Old Farmer’s Almanac picked veteran cookbook author Ken Haedrich to figure out which ones should be featured in its newest book, “The Old Farmer’s Almanac Comfort Food” (Old Farmer’s Almanac, $19.95), which came out last fall.

Haedrich settled on more than 200 recipes, most of them surprisingly modern, such as a basil leaf-studded tomato tart and bourbon-glazed salmon. However, many of the dishes, such as a beef and mushroom stew, chicken and dumplings and carrot cake, will take you back to your grandmother’s kitchen. I like this recipe for spinach and cheese-stuffed chicken breasts, which can be quite indulgent when topped with the lemon garlic parsley sauce. If you’re watching calories, leave that part out.


Spinach and Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts from “The Old Farmer’s Almanac Comfort Food.” Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner.

Spinach- and Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

2 thick, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
3/4 lb. fresh baby spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
For the lemon-garlic butter sauce:
3 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a large, shallow casserole and set aside.

Halve the chicken breasts and pound the pieces into large, thin cutlets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onion and mushrooms, stir, and sauté for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the spinach, garlic, and salt and pepper, to taste, and stir. Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the excess liquid evaporates.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and basil. Add salt and pepper, to taste, mix, and set aside.

Working with one piece of chicken at a time, smear one-quarter of the cheese mixture over the breast, then mound on it one-quarter each of the onion-mushroom mixture and the feta cheese. Fold one side of the chicken over the filling, then roll the chicken into a neat bundle. Brush with the beaten egg and roll in the bread crumbs to coat. Place in the oiled casserole, seam side down, and insert a toothpick through the chicken to secure it. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Melt the remaining 4 Tbsp. of butter and spoon over the chicken. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is firm, juicy, and no longer pink.

For sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; add the garlic. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the garlic is very lightly browned. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, parsley, and pepper, to taste. Serve over the sliced chicken. Serves 4.

—  From “The Old Farmer’s Almanac Comfort Food” (Old Farmer’s Almanac, $19.95) by Ken Haedrich

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