I love when we have friends and family stay with us. It gives me even more motivation to cook and find some new dishes to test out. Such was the case when my brother came to visit from L.A. for an extended stay. He was in town to research and write a movie script which the timing of his visit just so happened to coincide with my mom's knee replacement surgery. Lucky for me, he was able to do all the heavy lifting in helping her recup. He bopped back and forth from our house to my parents, where he did all the cooking while staying at their house. So naturally I wanted to give him a break when he was at ours. He is most definitely into healthy eating and steering clear of wheat and bread. Which was perfect, since so do I. We enjoyed a few good meals mixing up the proteins and sides but mostly keeping it simple.
With chicken on the menu for his last night in NY, I wanted to make it slightly more special than just oven roasted. You can count on me to rev up the creative juices when the fridge is full with stuff that needs to be used. Hence, "let me stuff chicken breasts with spinach, feta and goat cheese." All of which were in some crazy abundance in the fridge that week. (The goat was was originally destined for a tart idea that's been brewing. The spinach was supposed to have been a side dish. And the feta was one cheese that my brother asked for salads and for Greek inspired dishes. So that explains it.)
Besides just enjoying his company, I double downed on my good fortune of having him around as he snapped photos while I prepared this meal. Among his many talents, add photographer with a keen eye. So while my hands were full or messy, he documented the prep work. I'm telling you, as much as I love taking photos of what I make, it was a real treat to be able to just cook and not worry about cleaning my hands, taking the shot, then back to mixing, stirring or chopping. I'm spoiled now.
4 chicken breasts
14 oz baby spinach*, sautéed
2 T shallots, minced
2 T garlic, minced
1/2 c goat cheese
1/2 c feta cheese
1/2 c white wine (I used Muga Rosé, as it was leftover)
Oil roasted tomatoes
Magic 3 (Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper)
* I used 20 oz of spinach which was more than enough for filling but I used the rest as leftovers the next day to make corn quesadillas with feta.
Sauté the shallots, garlic in oil seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the spinach, cooking until wilted, then set aside to cool.
Clean, wash and thoroughly dry the chicken breasts. Then cut a pocket into the thick middle of each breast. (Note: making sure your protein (chicken, meat, fish) is thoroughly dried ensures you will get a good sear.)
Stuff each one with spinach then add the goat and feta cheeses into the pocket. Secure with a toothpick.
Season the chicken with salt, pepper and olive oil, then sear them on both sides in a cast iron skillet. Add wine and oven roasted tomatoes and then place in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken.
It just so happened that my sister, Jill, was also in town, which made it a nice send off. It was too bad that my other sis, Alyssa, couldn't make it. Since we were a party of four I needed some side dishes. Pulling items out of the fridge, here's the list of extras.
- Shisito peppers (as a little appetizer)
- Broccolini with oil and garlic
- Warm up the sautéd mushrooms from another meal.
- Quinoa with fresh parsley, scallions and chopped baby kale.
- Eggplant with feta, parsley, garlic and roasted tomatoes
- Tossed an arugula salad with cucumbers
And there you have a goodbye meal that felt like we were sending him back home with love.
He doesn't like his photo to be taken, so you will have to take my word for it that he enjoyed the meal with a smile. Enough so that he ate some of the leftovers the next day before we drove to JFK. And just the other day he told me that he recreated this dish when he got home. A Winner.
I think this could also be a good brunch dish. If you slice the cutlets in thick pieces, place them all on a large platter and pour the juices and tomatoes over top, it's an easy pick up and go dish for a buffet.
Feeding the people you love is what cooking is all about. Whether you are making a meal for someone coming into town or someone who is leaving, nourishing their bodies and souls is always better stirred with love. A most wholesome gift indeed.