Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chicken Florentine with Sun-dried Tomatoes

With five percent of fat per serving, the breast is the leanest part of a chicken, and a good option for lean protein. That being so, it has a tendency to dry out quickly during cooking.

Stuffed chicken florentine is one dish that defeats this an extent. Because it is stuffed with spinach, which is innately about ninety percent water, the interior stays moist even after pan searing and cooking in a four hundred degree oven for over thirty minutes. Of course, given enough time and heat, all of this moisture can dry off so be careful not to over-cook. Take care, also, to sear the meat evenly on all sides before finishing off in the oven. This has a two fold purpose: good searing means more flavor, and pre-searing means less cooking time in the oven.

I've used frozen spinach here but you can substitute with fresh if available. If using frozen, be sure to thaw it completely and squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. Don't worry, there will still be sufficient moisture for the stuffing. If using fresh spinach however, coarsely chop before adding to the onions. Also, cook for an extra few minutes to allow most of the the water that would have collected in the skillet to evaporate.*

This recipe can be somewhat time consuming but the results are well worth it. An effective approach is to prepare the stuffing before flattening the breasts into cutlets. Alternatively, the stuffing can be made up to a week in advance and frozen until ready to use.

Chicken Florentine with Sun-dried Tomatoes
Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 spring fresh thyme
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted with hot water, drained, and minced
1 package frozen, chopped spinach (about 6 cups fresh spinach*)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup grate parmigiano reggiano
1 egg
3 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper to season

1. To prepare stuffing: Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a heated skillet, and saute the onion and garlic with the thyme. Cook until the onions have slightly browned, about three minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and cook for another three to five minutes. Add the spinach, stir to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, bread crumbs, cheese, and egg. Combine thoroughly and set aside until ready to stuff the chicken.
2. Place one chicken breast on a cutting board, and carefully cut along the side, cutting through the middle, stopping half an inch before the knife goes through the other side, essentially butterflying the breast. Now, place the butterflied breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten with a mallet to an even thickness, less than a 1/4 inch throughout. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.
3. To stuff chicken breast: Place one chicken cutlet on a flat surface and spread a quarter of the spinach mixture evenly unto the cutlet. Roll up until you end with the seam side facing down. Using pieces of kitchen twine, tie a secure knot at three places along the roll: the middle, upper half, and lower half. Season evenly with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Brown the chicken on all sides , about three to four minutes per side. Finish cooking in a 400 degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes until chicken is no longer pink inside or an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Serve whole or in slices.


Cajun Chef Ryan said...

Wonderful dish here Natasha! Sun dried tomatoes are so good. Great photo too!

Sophie said...

Hello Natatsha!!

What a flavourful dish!! So apart & a fab presentation too!

Another Grand recipe!

Natasha said...

Yes guys, the sun-dried tomatoes add so much more flavor to this dish.

Tristan said...

I maintain a high-protein diet, and am always interested in methods to make otherwise bland chicken breast taste more exciting.

This one is new to me - thanks :)

Natasha said...

I can postulate that making chicken breast less bland is a frequent undertaking by many home cooks. But like I mentioned, it is the healthiest part of the chicken so, in the end, this endeavor is worth it, at least for our health.

Marina7 said...

Good to try this soon! Wish me luck!!