Thursday, August 14, 2014

Greek Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts for Dinner

Long, long ago, I made something similar to this, and it stayed in my memory. I remember the flavors being great. The most likely reason I never went back to make it again is because I dislike frying food. I really dislike the cleanup afterwards, with everything grease-spattered. Considering it has been at the very least 30+ years since the last time I stuffed chicken breasts and fried them, I thought maybe it was time to revisit this idea.

Clockwise from top: thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary
I had skinless boneless chicken breasts to use. My recollection from that last time was cutting a pocket into the meat. Basically, lay the breast flat on a cutting board and with a small, sharp paring knife, knife blade parallel to the cutting board, cut into the thicker side of the breast, keeping the opening small, but sliding the knife towards the top end and then see-sawing to the bottom end, creating a pocket. The most important thing is not to poke the knife out the other side, or even worse, through the top or bottom of the meat.

I chose Greek flavors to stuff the chicken, mainly because I already had a block of Feta cheese in the fridge. I thought about what else to use that would be Greek or Mediterranean and since my sister-in-law has all my herbs growing at her house, I took a walk over there and picked marjoram, oregano, thyme and rosemary. I particularly wanted marjoram for the flavors because of its somewhat more floral scent. If marjoram is not available, just use the whole amount of oregano. Along the way home, I stopped in the grocery for a lemon. Thinking of the possibility of using sun-dried tomatoes, I thought that oil packed would give more concentrated flavor. I considered capers, but left them out this time.
Greek Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Putting the whole thing into practice was relatively simple. I made the pockets in the chicken breasts and set them aside. I put a chunk of the Feta into the food processor to break it up finely, adding minced garlic to ensure it was evenly distributed. I did the chopping of herbs by hand. I had more than I needed, and since I was steaming fresh green beans to accompany the chicken, I added the leftover chopped herbs to the beans when they were finished. I used seasoned flour and egg to make the outer coating for the chicken; first in flour, then egg, then flour.
Chicken, frying

Actually frying the chicken took longer than I wished, but I kept the heat on medium low because I wanted the chicken cooked through but not burnt. I did not time it precisely, but I would estimate at least 15 minutes per side, before it reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees on my Thermapen instant-read thermometer. I realize how expensive this little tool is, but it is worth its weight in gold. Truly!

Ultimately, despite the mess all over the stove to clean, the chicken was most delicious. My husband again was thrilled with the outcome. My photos did not come out as I had wished, but hopefully they give enough of an idea of the great outcome of this dish.

Greek Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts

makes 4 servings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
2 ounces Feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, minced rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, minced thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, minced oregano leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, minced marjoram (OR use 3 teaspoons fresh oregano, if marjoram not available)
1 tablespoon minced oil-packed sun-dried tomato

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 egg
1 - 2 tablespoons milk or water
2 tablespoons oil, for frying, as needed

Pat dry the chicken breasts with paper toweling. With a very sharp paring knife, insert the knife tip into the thicker side of the meat. Slide the knife upwards first to the rounded end of the meat, being careful not to poke all the way through. With a gentle, back-and-forth, sliding motion, slide the knife blade to cut a pouch, extending down as far as comfortable into the narrow end of the chicken. Try to keep the original opening no more than 2 inches wide. Do this with all 4 chicken breast pieces and set aside.

Cut a 2" slit, slide knife blade upwards and down to make pocket
Place the feta cheese into a food processor with the garlic and lemon zest and process fine. Chop all the herbs and add them to the processor and pulse once or twice. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the minced sun-dried tomato, stirring to combine. Divide the cheese and herb mixture into 4 portions. With one hand, open the pocket of one chicken breast and with a small spoon, insert one portion of the cheese herb mixture. Use a fingertip to push the mixture both upwards and downwards in the pocket. Press the edge of the pocket to close and press the surface gently with fingers to spread the mixture to lay smoothly inside. Do this with the remaining 3 chicken breasts and filling.

Combine the flour, salt and pepper on a plate. In a separate, wider container, mix together the egg and milk or water with a fork to combine. Dredge the chicken breasts first in the flour mixture, then in the egg mixture, then back in the flour mixture. Set them aside for at least 20 minutes to set the coating. If longer, place them in the refrigerator.

Heat a large skillet and add the oil. Place the chicken breasts smooth side down into the hot oil. Start with medium low and fry the meat until very golden, about 15 minutes. Turn gently and fry the opposite side until golden and the internal temperature is at least 160 to 165 degrees. Do not cover the pan to speed the cooking as this will make the coating soggy and the cheese will ooze out.

NOTES: If other herbs than used in this recipe are desired, I would recommend using 1 - 2 tablespoons fresh dill instead and 3 - 4 teaspoons chopped capers instead of  the sun-dried tomatoes. This will be my next experiment!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.